Written by Arq. Hildegard Vásquez
The Old Quarter should be the example for a city that we should admire as more human, friendly, and sustainable. The future of cities lies in their past.
Many people ask me what is it like to live in the Old Quarter, as they imagine problems such as lack of security, gangs and shootouts, and of course they have not even come to this area in a long time. To those who still believe that the Grand Hotel is the Post Office Building I invite you to take a stroll one Sunday through the Old Quarter. I personally enjoy very much having my office half a block from my house and being able to have lunch in the comfort of my own home within two seconds. But apart from having that advantage, I believe that my job as an architect benefits every day from those small details one absorbs when being surrounded by a coherent architecture in line with our climate.
I enjoy very much studying lattice windows, balconies, corbels and moldings each time I turn around, and to my surprise I always find during my morning walks to the Costal Beltway some detail that is new to my eyes. Us architects feed from our surroundings and it is almost obsessive the process we use to feed from what we see both in our daily lives and when we travel. Old streets were designed at a scale for pedestrians, carts or horses. Automobiles do not belong here, and they are frankly not needed since even when it rains or when it is sunny one can move around from one place to another always protected by the balconies of buildings. I wish automobiles were banned altogether from the area, as I abhor the visual jarring they create. Without cars, the Old Quarter takes on a new life and generates a sea of pedestrians released from all of the city’s nuisances.