From the World Heritage inscription:
The historic ensemble of San Cristóbal de La Laguna has outstanding universal value is an urban design that represents the concept of the ‘town-territory’ as the first example of an unfortified town laid out and built according to a complete plan based on navigation, the science of the time, and as the organized space of a new peaceful social order inspired by the millenary religious concepts of the year 1500. As the first non-fortified Spanish colonial town, its layout was the model for many colonial towns in the Americas.
San Cristóbal was founded in 1497 by Alonso Fernández de Lugo. The last town to be established in the Canary Islands takes its name from a shallow lake or marshy area (La Laguna), drained in 1837. The original settlers, almost all soldiers, were not allocated building plots; the defined non-fortified urban area was considered to be a public space where anyone could build. As a result small houses were erected haphazardly around the church of La Concepción, without any overall plan. In 1502, a regular town plan based on Leonardo da Vinci’s model for Imola was drawn up by the Captain General (Adelantado) for the area. Wide major streets linked the public open spaces and formed the grid on which smaller streets were superimposed. The resulting Lower Town expanded rapidly, attracting the island’s ruling classes and monastic communities began building. A piped water supply was installed at the expense of the Town Council in 1521, and the first public buildings were constructed. However, the political, religious and economic centre was progressively transferred to Santa Cruz, and San Cristóbal declined.
La Laguna is an important city for several reasons. First, it was one of the launching points for Spanish expeditions to the Americas. Second, it was one of the first cities built without walls. Its protection came from the sea and its distance from the shore. Finally, it was an archetype for many Spanish colonials cities which were founded in the New World in terms of layout and architecture.
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