Palacio de Cristal, an icon in Guayaquil since 1908.
Palacio de Cristal, an icon in Guayaquil since 1908.

The Palacio de Cristal has been one of Guayaquil's landmarks since its construction began in 1905.

Palacio de Cristal observed from south to north.

Words: Patricio Añazco / Photos: Getty Images.

Guayaquil holds some treasures, one of them being the Palacio de Cristal. A living building that preserves the stories of times gone by that built the city that today is noble, majestic and thriving. In 1896, after the city burned down, the reconstruction of Guayaquil began as part of an intensive programme developed at the time to reorganise and rehabilitate the city. This led to the burning of the old market, which was located next to the Casa del Cabildo.

Building Mercado del Sur.

Later, the facilities were built to take its place and occupy the new markets that were to be built. The Mercado de la Orilla (and the Mercado del Sur. The mercado del sur (southern market) was designed and built by engineers Francisco Manrique and Carlos Van Ischot, Gustave Eiffel’s representatives in Guayaquil.

Construction of the original structure of the old Mercado del Sur (South Market) began in 1905 and was inaugurated in 1908. The parts cast by Verhaeren Ca. de Jager Ingenieurs Constructeurs from Brussels were assembled exactly according to the architectural plans in the space provided. The structure that now supports the palace is the original structure of the ket. These wrought-iron pieces, which crossed the Atlantic to reach their destination, are now one of the city’s main attractions.

The value of Mercado del Sur for Guayaquil.

From that point on, the Mercado del Sur (Southern Market) remained a presence in the city for almost a century, as it was twice rebuilt in the course of interior modernisation works. But over the years, in the 1960s, the rapid deterioration of the building was noticed and it became a question of deciding “whether it would not be better to demolish it and start with a new, more modern building” to meet the needs of the population.

Nevertheless, the demolition remained only an idea and was never realised because the monument value outweighed all other ideas. For the population, the southern market meant “the resurgence of a city ravaged by fires”.

Palacio de Cristal today.

Architect Melvin Hoyos says: “The intervention in the Mercado del Sur (Southern Market) and its restoration are the most impressive works carried out in the city and it has been declared a historical heritage site. The colonial-style columns are now connected with glass walls, forming two rectangular bodies that resemble giant glass boxes. As part of the construction and remodelling work carried out as part of the Guayaquil Urban Renewal Project.

Today it serves as an exhibition and congress centre and is considered one of the most important cultural centres in the city and the country. Among the most outstanding events that the palace has hosted are exhibitions of the works of great masters of all times. Rembrandt, Picasso, Rendón, Seminario and many others have been the most important guests of the city, which also hosts sporting events such as the Copa Libertadores de América in 2022.

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