Cumanda Centre, Quito
In a UNESCO-protected city, packed with breathtaking historic architecture, one of the most inspiring buildings we visited was a newly built rec centre. We stumbled upon it quite accidentally, wandering way, way down Calle La Ronda after a satisfying lunch at Cafeteria Modelo Cumanda (or Qmanda) Cultural and Sports Centre and the adjoining urban park opened in 2013 on the site of the “El Cumanda” bus terminal which stopped operating in 2009. Over the years, the area which was an important transit hub became quite isolated and unsafe, falling victim to the social problems associated with the operation of a bus terminal. A much-needed revitalization project in the heart of Quito’s Old town promised to boost the quality of life in the surrounding neighbourhoods of La Loma and San Sebastian.
What we saw on a warm Saturday afternoon was indeed a thriving space filled with people of all ages: kids climbing the side wall covered in a vibrant mural, teenagers playing soccer, older people attending group fitness classes. Beyond the recreational activities, the Cumanda building housed a range of surprises—exhibits about Quito’s history and urban planning, public art installations, vegetable gardens and multi-use spaces for various community programs. Plus, one unusual corner which caught my eye—a communal spiritual space which housed a range of religious icons and sentimental items, including an Inca mask, two Chihuahuas in a basket, Catholic postcards, a Maneki-Neko ‘lucky cat’, a child’s shoe, a striped hat… Visitors were invited to expand upon the definition of this space by contributing their own items. Such was the spirit of The Cumanda Centre: inclusive, multi-generational and best of all, responsive.
To get a better sense of the area (and spy me sitting to the right of the building) follow the link to Urban Squares, a project my father has been working on for the last two decades. Cumanda is the latest in his collection of panoramas of public, urban squares around the world.
Some images of the surrounding neighbourhood: