What is behind the spectacular Santa Barbara’s architecture?

Santa Barbara is touristic city well-known for its weather, landscapes and mostly its architecture. It is this last quality what attract people the most. This is out of the conventional American architecture because its origins come from the Spanish constructions during the colonization.   In fact, thanks to this beautiful ancient architecture, historic preservation was conceived as an integral element in the planning process. Actually, Santa Barbara was one of the first communities in the United States who took care about this topic and they were the first because both, Santa Barbara and Montecito are the most important cities where this kind of architecture highlights. For describing how the city’s buildings have the Spanish Colonial style, it would better to make a timeline of main events happened in Santa Barbara. This brief timeline list will give you a better understanding about its architecture’s origins.  

Santa Barbara County Courthouse_architecture_kenny slaught
Image courtesy of Konrad Summers Follow at Flickr.com

1542: First contact between Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (one of the first sailors who explored the west coast of North America) and habitants of the area was made in October.
1602: Sebastian Vizcaino named on December 4th the body of the water Santa Barbara because it was the Roman Catholic Feast Day of Saint Barbara.
1780: The establishment of a Mission and Presidio was authorized by Theodoro de Croiz.
1784: It started the construction of the first adobe housing at the Santa Barbara Presidio.
1787: The construction of the Mission began. Structures were built following the jacal technique that includes poles and roofed with grass.
1790: A considerable number of buildings were constructed this year. All of them were made with adobes and tiles.
1796: One thousand Chusman Indians were baptized at Mission Santa Barbara.
1797: Spanish colonies were aware about the possible English invasion.
1800: A minor earthquake occurred and the Mission had little damages.
1804: Mission Santa Ines was founded.
1810: Mexico revolted against Spain for its independency.
1812: A major earthquake occurred and Santa Barbara’s Mission suffered severe damages.
1824: After Mexico adopted a republican form of government, Alta and Baja California were constituted as Mexican territory.
1846: War was declared between United States and Mexico and the American flag was first raised in Santa Barbara.
1864: It was chosen Spanish as the official language for all public records.
1870: English replaced Spanish as the official language for public records.

Even the only construction mentioned in this timeline main events list is the Mission, other main constructions that keep this Spanish architecture were built at that time as well.

Santa Barbara - Causeway_architecture_kenny slaught_2
Image courtesy of Konrad Summers at Flickr.com

Spanish Colonial Revival architecture was the United States architectural movement developed the early 20th century. This movement took the Spanish Colonial architecture for designing some cities that were first Spanish colonies and then they became American cities. In California, there is the major location of this architectural style. And Santa Barbara, after the earthquake occurred in 1925 took this style for the re-designing of the city.  This movement was founded by architect Geroge Washington Smith who moved to Montecito and popularized this movement.  

The history of El Pueblo Viejo aesthetic control remains to Roman and Parisian laws. It aims to preserve history through the Hispanic architecture. But you may wonder What is the Hispanic Architecture about? This style is greatly influenced by the architecture of the “white-washed cities” of Andalusia in Southern Spain. In Santa Barbara vernacular buildings techniques are the co-relation born from the respond of the natural environment and the locally available materials. Besides, what characterizes Hispanic architectural is the “simplicity, rustic economy, excellence in craftsmanship and honest expression of material”. Forms founded in Santa Barbara convey to the vernacular handmade quality oriented to the sunlight. Furthermore, colors are also related with natural environment, yellow, red, orange and white that remains Santa Barbara’s weather.

On the other hand, central Santa Barbara allows you to understand how the architecture at that time was conceived. The design of buildings, and details that show the relation each building had with the concept is also helpful when understanding Hispanic architecture. Roofs design for example has a colonial style that also could be found in colonial cities such as Cartagena, Mompox or San Juan in Puerto Rico.

Santa Barbara has made a lot of efforts to work on the architectural preservation. New laws were created to avoid new constructions disrupt the harmony Spanish Colonial Revival architecture gives to the city. New constructions, especially in El Pueblo Viejo, must follow a guidance where it is specified the characteristics every new building must follow. Remember, when in Santa Barbara, think of how this city has contribute to the preservation of this architecture, even if this does not perform the American style brought by the English architectures.  


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