Dear Santa...

In the spirit of the Holiday Season I have decided to make a top 5 list of gifts for that special architect in your life:

5. For those of us who practice the dying art of hand drawing: A French Industrial Drafting desk and chair from Négrel Antiques in Austin, TX.

drafting desk

4. And while we are in the topic of hand drawing, how about a sketchbook?  Leather-bound and filled with handmade "Carta di Amalfi" paper, these journals from Cartoleria il Pantheon in Rome, Italy are the only way to draw!


3. For the Apple fanatic:  Haydeé Callejas iPad case, gorgeously made in genuine Alligator skin, and dyed in "Emerald", 2013's color of the year.  Available at Mon Venin
2. To capture of all of those special "Architectural Tourism" moments: Nikon D7000 DSLR camera. from Nikon

1. And finally, a dream gift for the home: Timothy Richards' limited edition plaster model of the "Temple of the Four Winds". 

Heights Living: Holiday in The Heights

December is a really nice time to live in The Heights, the weather is perfect for walks along the oak shaded streets, the cottages and bungalows come alive with lights, and the entire neighborhood is ripe with holiday themed activities!  I want to share the happenings in our neighborhood with all you readers, if you live in the Houston area, or planning to visit, take advantage of them:
Friday November 30th starting at 5:00pm all of the shops on the Heights' most historic street will open their doors for a retro Holiday celebration.  Channel your inner "Mad Men" at the annual Holiday on 19th - "Paint The Street Red", and enjoy sophisticated cocktails and music along with your shopping.  Guests are encouraged to wear retro red fashions. Visit the Shops on 19th street for more information.
Friday November 30th and December 1st The Houston Heights Association presents "Carols by Candlelight, Holiday Home Tour". Six neighbors will open their homes and welcome visitors with the sound of carolers.  November 30th hours are 6:00pm-9:30pm, and December 1st hours are 3:00pm -9:00pm. For tickets and route information visit The Houston Heights Association
Sunday December 2nd at 7:30pm, First Presbyterian Church will perform their 32nd annual Messiah Sing Along.  This is not a Heights event (it's actually down the street in Montrose), but it's a Christmas tradition for me.  When I lived in Lincoln Park, I used to go every year to the Chicago Lyric Opera's "Do it yourself Messiah", 3000 voices singing (mostly in tune) the famous chorus!  My first Christmas in Houston I discovered First Presbyterian's Sing Along, and though 3000 voices it is not, the beautiful Georgian Architecture of this church is the perfect setting for Handel's oratorio which, though today is performed in grand concert halls, was composed and performed in 1741 Dublin for a smaller and humbler audience.  Visit First Presbyterian for more information.
Saturday December 8th starting at 6:00pm the Woodland Heights will light up the neighborhood with their 25th annual "Lights in The Heights", a festival of color, music, and light. Visit the Woodlands Heights Association for route and parking information, and if you want a sneak peek of the event, visit my post from last year's festival: Let's light it up!
I hope the Holiday Season is off to a good start for all of you!

The Navel of the World

Sunrise over Lake Titicaca, Peru.
Inti, the sun decided to civilize the peoples of the region who, naked and sheltering in caves, lived like wild beasts.  He sent his son Ayar Manco and his daughter Mama Ocllo to build his empire, and out of the waves of Lake Titicaca, the children of the sun rose carrying with them Inti's golden staff, which they must sink into the earth to find supple ground.  Northwards they marched, thrusting the staff in the unyielding land along their path, until they found a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains; here the soil was soft and the golden staff sank gently into the earth.
Ayar Manco turned to the men of this land and taught them how to farm, hunt wild beasts, and build houses; Mama Ocllo turned to the women and taught them how to cook and weave the wool of llamas into clothing, and together Ayar Manco and his sister-consort Mama Ocllo built the city of Cuzco, center of the Tahuantinsuyo, and navel of the world.
Plaza de Armas in Cuzco, Peru.
My father, the professor, taught me history and folklore in the guise of bedtime stories, and I traveled to Cuzco in his words and in the hazy memories of my childhood.  Fairy tales set high expectations which reality sometimes cannot surpass, but Cuzco did not disappoint, its exuberant Baroque churches and stoic Inca buildings were every bit as beautiful as I had imagined. 

Capilla del Triunfo at Cuzco's cathedral.

Cuzco was founded in the 13th century by the Inca rulers of Peru and in the 15th century became the capital and administrative center of the Tahuantinsuyo (the four regions), the vast empire that encompassed Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and northern Argentina, and in the 16th century it was invaded by the Spanish Francisco Pizarro, who waged a bloody campaign of conquest against the Incas. 

The Amaru Qancha (left) and the Aqllawasi (House of the Chosen Women) which was transformed into the convent of Santa Catalina. Cuzco, Peru.

Cuzco, like Rome is a city of architectural layers, with vestiges of Inca achievements surprising the visitor at every corner.  The 1536 siege of Cuzco (in which the deposed emperor Manco Inca Yupanqui, marched into the city in an effort to expel the Spaniards) may have burned the thatched roofs of the capital, but the stone precincts (Qancha) that made up its temples and palaces remain, witness to the genius of the Inca civilization.

The Archbishop's palace, formerly the Hatumrumiyoc, residence of Inca Roqa.
The 12 angle stone at the Hatumrumiyoc.  For scale comparison, my height is 5'-4"

The Monastery of Santo Domingo is built on the foundation of the Qorikancha, (or Golden House) temple of the Sun. 

Conquest and colonization gave birth to what Peruvians call "sincretismo", that is the union of two ideologies, two styles, two races.  This union can be experienced in the religious fervor that holds in equal value the reverence of the ancestors and the spirits of the land with the cult of christian saints; or in the daily exchanges conducted in Quechua and Spanish, or in the cyclopean walls that lend Inca gravitas to the Spanish Baroque.

Calling the winds at Saqsayhuaman.  Cuzco, Peru.
Quechua visitors at the Plaza de Armas.  Cuzco, Peru.
Calle de las siete culebras.  The street of the 7 snakes and the corner of the Convent of the Nazarenas.  The Snake in Inca mythology is a totemic representative of the underworld.
Cuzco's beauty moved me, and the visit brought me such finally see with my eyes what I had "seen" in my father's words.  Rome, AthensGranada, Mycenae, and now Cuzco.  To my father's memories John and I now add our own. 


We now found ourselves on the lonely path to Puno and Lake Titicaca, having left behind the "White City" of Arequipa.  John and I traveled accompanied by our skilled driver through dry and barren plains; the sun scorched the naked rocks that lined the road and the air became thinner as we ascended into the Andean "Altiplano".
The Vicuña sanctuary in Pampa Cañahuas, Peru.
The plains were still, there were no sounds except for the soft rustle of the wind on the grass. The only signs of life along the deserted highway were packs of vicuña, the endangered camelids priced for their fine wool, that calmly grazed on the yellowed grass.  The quiet of the Altiplano felt almost sacred... not wanting to disturb the peace of the plains, John and I traveled for hours in silent contemplation, speechless at the naked beauty of the land.
Patahuasi, Peru.
Patahuasi, Peru.
Our journey paused at a small inn in Patahuasi, the crossroads for those traveling the Colca Canyon, Arequipa, and Puno route.  As we sat in the deep shadows of the small cafe, sipping an infusion of Coca leaves, we were joined by fellow wanderers newly returned from the depths of the Colca; the quiet intimacy of our journey was now interrupted by the excited cadences of many languages, and as John and I joined our voices to this new Babel, I began to feel the effects of the altitude (13,123 ft above sea level).  The air, thin and cold, passed through my lungs in long rattles, every uttered word was a struggle, and every step I took made my heart pound quickly inside my chest, and in the battle for oxygen, silence fell over us once more.
Patahuasi, Peru.
Lagunillas, Peru.
The road took us to Lagunillas (13,560 above sea leavel) where, with 13 people per square mile, the largest living community may perhaps be the brightly colored flamingos that populate the lakes.  On the edge of the water and along the road we could see piles of rock, neatly stacked and of many sizes, our guide informed us that the piles were offered by the Andean peoples to the Apu (the spirits of the mountains) in prayer for a safe passage through the mountains.
Lagunillas, Peru.

The flamingos at Lagunillas, Peru.
An alpaca at Lagunillas, Peru.
We stopped by the lake shore to observe the piles.  There are no trees in the plains, there is no shelter, there is just the sun casting shadows on the rocks, and the wind rustling the grass; vast as the eye can see and beautifully lonely... gasping for air and with my heart racing, I dug a rock out of the ground, John gathered more rocks and together we built our own offering to the mountains behind us.
Offerings to the Apus at Lagunillas, Peru.
All images by Nadia Palacios Lauterbach

Birds of a Feather **More Updates**

The mosaic that I designed for a residence in Telluride, Colorado is installed!  Here is a picture of the work in progress.

Residence in Telluride, Colorado.

The White City

The Misti Volcano watches over Arequipa
We began our ascend into the Andes with a visit to the city of Arequipa (elevation 7,661 feet above sea level), which sits on a mountainous desert at the foot of the Misti volcano.  My first thought upon arriving in Arequipa was that we had reached a different country, the thick fog of Lima was now replaced by the crisp mountain air and burning sun, and instead of the capital's cacophony, we were surrounded by the cadences of the ancient Quechua tongue.
The Chanchani Volcano peeks behind the walls of the Monastery of Santa Catalina.

A Quechua woman weaves alpaca wool.
The modern city of Arequipa was founded by the Spanish in 1540, and its buildings were constructed of Sillar, a pearly white volcanic rock also known as Tuff or Tufo that shines white in the blinding sun and gives Arequipa its popular name of "Ciudad Blanca" (White City).
The university.
Architecture in Arequipa is one of contrast between simplicity and exuberance, red and blue, light and shadow, heat and cold.  The streets are lined by thick stone walls rhythmically punctuated by ample doors that lead into unsuspected, sunny courtyards, about which the shaded rooms of the buildings are disposed.
The Church of the Jesuits.
The Church of the Jesuits.
A colonial house.
A colonial house.
Earthquakes are frequent in Peru and Arequipa has not been immune to them, evidence of this is the (relatively) new interior of the Cathedral, which dates to the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral of Arequipa, Peru.
The Cathedral of Arequipa, Peru.
Arequipa is full of treasures like the wonderful Museo de Santuarios Andinos where sacrificial victim "Juanita" rests in her frozen sleep, or the labyrinthine Monasterio de Santa Catalina where the cloistered nuns built a city within a city, or the wonderful Arequipeña cuisine!
The Monastery of Santa Catalina in Arequipa, Peru.

Chupe de Camarones at chef Gastón Acurio's "Chicha"
But of all that Arequipa has to offer, my favorite pleasures were to sit under the arcades of the Plaza de Armas watching the city stroll past me, or to get lost in the uphill streets of the Yanahuara, where the air is still and the city turns quiet.
Paseo de la Catedral in Arequipa, Peru.
Street in the Yanahuara disctrict of Arequipa, Peru.
All images by Nadia Palacios Lauterbach and John Lauterbach. For more images of Arequipa visit Dear Polia's Facebook Albums

Suspiro Limeño

Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.,
Lima was founded on January 18th, 1535 by Francisco Pizarro-who called it "Ciudad de los Reyes" (City of the Kings)-and it became the capital of the viceroyalty of Perú, and an important port and communication route between the Old World and the New World.  Lima today is a bustling capital city with a vibrant night life, a delicious gastronomic tradition, a rich collection of museums, exuberantly beautiful churches, and a complex and extensive history, too extensive to detail in this blog.  I will limit myself to list my favorite sights of Lima, in no particular order. Enjoy:
1. Lima's Colonial Balconies bring a touch of Mudejar to its Baroque urban fabric; more than a decorative element, the balconies have provided, since colonial times, a discreet vantage point from which to partake in the comings and goings of the city.
The Bishop's Palace in Lima, Peru.
Plaza de Armas of Lima, Peru.
2. Lima's Baroque churches have been destroyed by terrible earthquakes and rebuilt through the centuries, they represent both the changing styles and the continuity of the Spanish architectural tradition.

Basilica Cathedral of Lima, Peru.
Monastery of San Francisco
Iglesia de la Merced in Lima, Peru.

3. Lima's Cathedral is the crowning architectural achievement of the city and it houses, under its wooden (anti seismic) vaults, an invaluable artistic treasure:

The Cathedral of Lima, Peru.

4. The Baroque altars of the Cathedral are carved in wood imported from Nicaragua.  As I admired their intricate beauty, I also wondered if the fragrant cedar was carved by some of the thousands of Nicaraguan natives that were forcibly exported to Peru during the colony.

Baroque altar at the Cathedral of Lima, Peru.

5. The 18th century "sillería" of the Cathedral's Choir is the work of Pedro de Noguera; the intricacy and beauty of its carving would rival any Spanish model.

The Choir at the Cathedral of Lima, Peru.

6. The Archbishop's Palace provides a journey back in time with its collection of beautifully decorated period rooms.

The Archbishop's palace of Lima, Peru.

The Archbishop's palace of Lima, Peru.

The Archbishop's palace in Lima, Peru.

7. The "Escuela Cuzqueña" religious Art at the Archbishop's Palace.  The "Escuela Cuzqueña" (Cuzco School), was arguably the most important art style in the colonial Americas and represents the confluence of two powerful artistic traditions: the Spanish and the Inca.

Religious art at the Archbishop's palace in Lima, Peru.

8. Lima's busy streets, denote a living, breathing capital city which, though visitor friendly, does not yield its essence to the tourism machine.
Historic Center of Lima, Peru.

Historic center of Lima, Peru.

9. The Inca gold and silver at the Museo Larco filled me admiration for the accomplishments of this great civilization and sadness at the knowledge of all that was lost in the process of colonization.

Gold at the Museo Larco of Lima, Peru.

Gold at the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

10. Peruvian gastronomy has been recently declared by UNESCO and the OAS as "Cultural Patrimony of Humanity" and "Cultural Heritage of the Americas" respectively.

Ceviche, causas, anticuchos, tamales, and potato cake accompanied by Pisco Sour and Maracuyá juice.
Suspiro Limeño (Sighs of Lima), a delicious dessert.

All images by Nadia Palacios Lauterbach and John Lauterbach.  For more pictures of Lima visit Dear Polia's Album on Facebook

copyright © . all rights reserved. designed by Color and Code

grid layout coding by