Monday, December 26, 2011

A Palace for the Arts

The Palacio San Francisco, on Jimenez Ave., is to become an arts center. 
Despite being a democracy, the Colombian capital contains several palaces, including the Palacio de Nariño - the Presidential Palace - and the Justice Palace.
The elaborate scuptures on the building's roof are
named 'Peace' and 'Work.'

Now, it is also to have an Arts Palace.

That very grand, very handsome and very empty building on Jimenez Ave. beside the San Francisco Church used to house the government of Cundinamarca, the province surrounding Bogotá.

The site's recorded history begins in 1557, when Franciscan priests built a church where the San Francisco Church - Bogotá's oldest - still stands, on the corner of Jimenez and Seventh avenues. (Back then, the San Francisco River, today buried in a pipe, flowed down what is today Jimenez.) Beside the church, the Franciscans also built a convent.

In 1861, however, Pres. Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera confisticated the Catholic Church's property and turned the convent into the provincial capital building. But a 1917 earthquake badly damaged the building. The next year, the government began construction of the existing building, which took 15 years to complete (making the current TransMilenio projects look speedy).  Then, the new building was heavily damaged in the 1948 Bogotazo riots, which followed the assassination of populist politician Jorge Eliecer Gaitan across the street.

With the construction of the new, futuristic, pyramid-shaped provincial government building on 26th St., in 1997 the building on Jimenez Ave. was handed over to the management of the nearby Universidad del Rosario.

If there's anything La Candelaria already has lots of, it's art. So, it's good that the new building will contain recording, music and dance studios for people to work in. It is also to contain documentation and exhibition about Cundinamarca's history, culture and environment.


A majestic window in neoclassical style. 
When the arts center is completed, hopefully within a few years, La Jimenez could be an artsy corridor. The basement of the demolished building across Jimenez has been turned into an arts space, as has the old Odeon Theatre a block up Ave. Septima, and the Spanish government keeps promising to build a Spanish-Colombian Cultural Center higher up the avenue. At the top end of the avenue, between Los Andes University and the Quinta de Bolivar, is the Warehouse Art Center. In the other direction, there are plans to convert the decrepid building beside the old train station into an arts academy.

 Find photos and other info on the building's website here.
TransMilenio buses roll past the San Francisco Palace. 

Evidently, The British Council once occupied the building. 

The elaborate crown of one of the building's columns.
 
Restoration is going on, as this temporary roofing attests. 


On the building's side, a plaque from a beekeepers organization honors poet enrique Alvarez Henao, autho of the poem 'The Bee.' The only connection I can find is that the Franciscan priests were known for beekeeping. 


The Franciscans' coat of arms, on the adjoining church, includes beekeeping
equipment (and a paintball stain). 

The palace got graffitied recently by student protesters. 



Statue of Pres. Carlos Lleras Restrepo. 
 


A street vendor at work on the sidewalk. 

Windows ironwork. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours