Itchimbía Park and Cultural Center

The Itchimbía Park and Cultural Center is perched at the summit of Itchimbia Hill in Quito, Ecuador, providing a breath-taking panoramic view of the quaint historic center of the city, the bustling modern city, the snow-capped peak of Cayambe and the majestic Pichincha Volcano. The distinctive 19th century steel and glass structure housing the Cultural Center is set in a park stretching over an area of 54 hectares, boasting approximately 40 species of birds, around 400 varieties of flowers and a hectare of wetland terrain.

The site that the Itchimbía Park and Cultural Centre is situated on was a sacred site for civilizations occupying the area before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors. This is where the pre-Incan inhabitants of the Quito Valley, the Quitu-Caras, worshipped the rising sun. Eminent Ecuadorian archaeologist Jacinto Jijón y Caamaño set up archaeological exploration of the site in the 1920s and discovered a tomb, which contained, among other things, two gold earrings, eight decorative nose loops, two of which were fashioned from gold, and a necklace, indicating that the ancient inhabitants of the area were most likely wealthy.

This historic site was neglected for some time as the significance of its historical value was underestimated. However, in 1997 the Fondo de Salvamento del Patrimonio Cultural (Fund for Saving Cultural Heritage) together with Quito city officials undertook a project to restore the Itchimbía hillside and promote its historical and cultural significance, both to fellow Ecuadorians and visitors to this fascinating country. After clearing the hillside and relocating some families that had set up home there, the project tackled the job of moving the Santa Clara market building from across town to the new site. This elegant building, which resembles the old market of Les Halles in Paris, was manufactured in Hamburg and brought to Quito in 1889. Visitors to the Cultural Center come to appreciate that this must have been a mammoth task, especially as in the time period workers did not have the benefit of modern machinery.

The project was completed in July 2004 and opened to the public. The Itchimbía Cultural Center, while retaining is old world charm, is equipped with high-tech computerized lighting, ambient temperature control and superb acoustics, incorporating conference halls, walkways, a restaurant and parking for cars. In addition to providing recreational and educational facilities, the Itchimbía Park and Cultural Center provides a green space easily accessible to city dwellers and, judging by the number of people who enjoy visiting there, it is much appreciated by the residents of Quito.