Founded by the Portuguese in 1680 on Uruguay's Río de la Plata, the city was of strategic importance in resisting the Spanish. After being disputed for a century, it was finally lost by its founders. The well preserved urban landscape illustrates the successful fusion of the Portuguese, Spanish and postcolonial styles.
Founded by the Portuguese in 1680, Colonia del Sacramento is located at the tip of a short peninsula with a strategic position on the north shore of Uruguay's Río de la Plata, facing Buenos Aires.
In the region, the Historic Quarter of Colonia is the only example of an urban plan that does not conform to the rigid checkerboard grid imposed by Spain under the "Laws of the Indies." Instead, this city has a free plan adapted to the topographical features of the site, although strongly influenced by its military function.
Throughout the successive destruction and occupations of its territory, the Historic Quarter acquired the urban and architectural heterogeneity that characterizes it; to the contributions of the Portuguese and Spanish were added those of the artisans who emigrated there during the second half of the 19th century.
All of its modest buildings, in regard both to their dimensions and their appearance, are a particularly interesting testimony to the singular fusion of the Portuguese and Spanish traditions that is evident in the construction methods used. The civil and religious buildings with long stone walls, wooden trellis and tiled roofs reveal an excellent knowledge of traditional construction systems and contribute to the architectural unity specific to the Historic Quarter.
The special nature of Colonia del Sacramento is also based on its urban landscape, a mixture of large arteries and large squares, with narrow cobbled streets and more private spaces. The scale of the Historic Quarter is marked by the predominance of single-story houses, those of two stories being rare. From the bay, only the outlines of the lighthouse and church towers stand out. Surrounded by water on three sides, the relationship of the city to the river is one of the natural aspects that additionally characterizes it.
The bloody border dispute between Portugal and Spain gave this remarkable urban site an identity profile enabling appreciation of the survival of its essential characteristics: the dominant human scale, the texture and the time of this unique scenario, and the value of its integration into the environment.