Cool Comfort in Antigua – Antigua, Guatemala

Cool Comfort in Antigua: A Look into Antigua’s Domestic Architecture and over its Fountain Squares
Antigua, Guatemala

Scarlet, crimson, ochre, beige, and mustard compete for space. Vivid but serene and poetic, Antigua’s residential color scheme resembles a Gauguin painting – guided by the intensity of tropical sunshine. The earthly walls harmonize with the verdant deep greenscape and the white and blue spectrum of the day skyline, broken by cool terra cotta tile roofs and lantern chimneys.

Charming Old Casa 1
Charming Old Casa 1
Antigua has eye-catching grand old portal doors. Doors are normally constructed as high proportioned to their equally high ceiling-interiors and even wider to fit a carriage. Portal trimmings softened the heavy fat walls and on some, they can be arched and accessorized with keystone, scrollwork, or even an elaborate pediment with a clock. Natural finished hardwood paneled door leaves complete the quaint appeal.

True to Spanish colonial imagery, Antigua evokes that stereotypical Andalusian feel. Its narrow streets flanked by an unbroken line of flat blank walls pushed optimally to their property line and punctuated by narrow windows protected by simple iron grille-cages.

Windowpanes are almost austerely straightforward rectangular glass panels while the focus of ornamentation is concentrated in the cagey wrought iron grillwork and the base trim.

Wrought iron grillwork from simple lines running across and up and down within the rectangular frame can be generously curlicued.

Trim bases exist for the purpose of an elbow rest when street gazing and people watching, and when the projection permits, as flower plant pot stands or cat hang-out. In some cases, they reach down to the street bottom floor like drums. The enormity of variation of these window bases is intense.

Charming Old Casa 2
Charming Old Casa 2
Other Antiguan fenestration masterpieces are these corner windows, which are unique in their own way complementing the charm of sidewall windows and making them a signature feature of Antiguan houses. Grilles and trim bases offer architectural curiosity as well as the corner post.

Although these houses, like those in Mexico and Spain, lack generous balconied windows, they nevertheless provide a respite ease from the monotonous massive boxy walls, which were not exploited for architectural interplay.

Trim bases exist for the purpose of an elbow rest while street gazing and people watching by its inhabitants and when the projection permits, as flower or plant pot stands, in some cases, they reach down to the street bottom floor like drums. The enormity of variation of these window bases is intense.

Even the eaves are not spared of Antiguan creativity. A unique artwork of wooden tiled soffits is installed on the undersides of eaves.

Antigua’s lantern-topped chimneys are actually kitchen smokestacks mostly constructed in a sharp-edged, eight-sided funnel shaped design to withstand the destructive seismic convulsions. It is not only ingenious but a pleasing icon of Antiguan skyline.

New casas follow the style and intent of the ancient ones to blend with the old world look, giving the city a very clear-cut aesthetically pleasing harmony. One may call it organized anarchy where there’s room for creativity within the bounds and definition of colonial Spanish architecture. It appears that a strong design parameter is currently being followed.

Antigua has a spattering of fountains, a hallmark of Andalusian urban landscape, too small and unnoticeable under the radar to be toppled down by earthquakes and thank goodness, too eye pleasing and precious to be knocked down by the ravages of time.

Fountains used to be utilitarian when houses were not yet connected to its city water distribution system, relying on their daily supply from the community water pool. As if old-fashioned ashtrays rendered useless and inappropriate by modern times, here they survive.

Antiguan Eave
Antiguan Eave
Some are well maintained and thriving, still spouting water while others have already run dry, and even converted to flower vases, standing just an ornamental landmark, typically spindled, round and look the same in any angle it is viewed.

Nowadays, their usage has been relegated to a GPS system substitute, a sort of meeting point at the same time a historical landmark to lost visitors of a city frozen in time. Fountains should still serve their purpose especially on a hot summer season. They make gushing sound that soothes and relaxes. A slap on the cheeks, a wash down the arms & neck, or even a quick foot dip would be refreshing for tired tourists.