San Cristóbal de La Laguna, in the Canary Islands, has two nuclei: the original, unplanned Upper Town; and the Lower Town, the first ideal ‘city-territory’ laid out according to philosophical principles. Its wide streets and open spaces have a number of fine churches and public and private buildings dating from the 16th to the 18th century.
San Cristóbal de la Laguna was the first non-fortified Spanish colonial town, and its layout provided the model for many colonial towns in the Americas.
San Cristóbal was founded in 1497 by Alonso Fernández de Lugo. The original settlers, almost all soldiers, were not allocated building plots; the defined non-fortified urban area was considered to be a public space where anyone could build. As a result small houses were erected haphazardly around the church of La Concepción, without any overall plan. In 1502, a regular town plan based on Leonardo da Vinci’s model for Imola was drawn up for the area. The resulting Lower Town expanded rapidly, attracting the island’s ruling classes and monastic communities began building. A piped water supply was installed at the expense of the Town Council in 1521, and the first public buildings were constructed. However, the political, religious and economic centre was progressively transferred to Santa Cruz, and San Cristóbal declined.
Since 1999 La Laguna is a Unesco site.
Thanks to Patricia for the postcard.