Architecture: The Bahareque culture in Colombia

Colombia is still an unexplored country, full of natural wonders, architectural, cultural and social contrasts, which influence the economic development of the communities throughout its territory.

Currently, the impact of modern aesthetics and urbanism has modified both large cities and small towns in the suburbs, creating the need, in public institutions and its inhabitants to organize themselves to protect and maintain the cultural legacy of their ancestors.

The bahareque is a system of housing construction used by the native people of America since ancient times and implemented in Colombia in the period of colonization in the region that is now known as the Coffee Region.

This system, apart from respecting the environment, is highly resistant to earthquakes and is inexpensive, as it uses raw materials from the region; but undoubtedly, nowadays it is very important because constitutes a fundamental element in architecture, culture and local economy.

UNESCO Heritage of humanity: Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia

In 2011, UNESCO declared the Colombian Coffee Cultural Landscape as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity and from there the visibility of the natural wealth around the cultivation of coffee and the cultural legacy of Bahareque as a style of architecture that takes advantage of wood, guadua and bamboo, together with mud, hay and the mixture of cow and horse droppings.

Bahareque house being built.

These magnificent towns are located in the departments of Caldas, Quindío, Risaralda, north of The Valley of Cauca and northwestern of Tolima. The Declaration of the Coffee Cultural Landscape created awareness about the riches of these lands. This is how this impulse on the part of this world organization generated a sense of self in the local community, and with it, it began to strengthen what were previously believed to be primitive forms of construction in contrast with the constructions of developed countries. In this attempt to protect their culture, towns like Salento, Filandia, Pijao, Genova, Montenegro, among others, decided to maintain the essence of the local culture through the conservation of bahareque architecture and clay tiles. Conservation which has allowed them to improve their economy because of the influx of tourists to this Colombian area in permanent growth.

The bahareque a symbol of the coffee culture

The bahareque stands as a symbol of the coffee culture.  From the streets of these villages you can see balconies in multicolored wood, roofs in mud, furnishings from the mid-nineteenth century, that when mixed in view of the visitors become the mediation of new infrastructures such as hotels and country houses made of other materials, which in a certain way allows the economy to be dynamic between the old and the modern.

Tourism boosts its economy from the consumption of services in restaurants, bars, museum houses, coffee farms, hotels, theme parks and even bird watching, hiking, transportation in old Willyz Jeep.

The Cocona valley with its wax palms is particularly popular with tourists.(Diegotorquemada -Eigenes Werk, CC BY 3.0, Link)

In short, the traveller finds exuberant landscapes that go from the tropical forest, hot springs, palm of wax (national tree of Colombia), systems of páramo in the Andes and all the services that promote welfare in one of the safest areas throughout Colombia.

But the coffee culture goes further, the visitor can share in bars and coffee shops, along with artisans and farmers; gaming halls and souvenirs, all of them always accompanied by local products, from coffee to arepas, aguapanela, cheeses, sandwiches and other products of gastronomy of this mountain coffee.


A wonderful example is Pijao Quindío, embedded between the central mountain range at a height of 1600 metres above sea level, it’s a small town where  time stopped to let you see a panoramic view of houses made of wood and guadua, colorful windows with particular details according to the customs of their inhabitants, inside stairs and corridors that take us back to the times of the coffee bonanza, the landscape is quiet, preserved, the good living is rediscovered with the recognition that it is what sustains the economy in this century. Pijao is the only municipality in Latin America that is part of Citta Slow movement, which seeks to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants and visitors in an atmosphere of absolute tranquility.

Colombia has opened its doors to the world to discover the natural charms and cultural resources that have long been preserved and that are now present as an opportunity to capture wonderful memories in the mind of its visitors and to dignify the lives of those who have made from coffee a lifestyle.