This article assesses residential architecture at the site of Yayno, Pomabamba, north central highlands of Peru. Mapping and sampling excavations show the primary occupation of the site dates to cal AD 400–800, by groups of the Recuay tradition. The results are described in relation to three forms of local dwellings. Considerable variability characterizes their size, construction quality and contents, although the present evidence suggests their inhabitants were largely coeval and used similar material culture. Also, some of the circular and quadrangular compounds are of monumental character. The imagery of Recuay artworks allows further understanding of the compounds, specifically as mimetic forms of chiefs, both representational and metaphorical. The research concludes that the development of chiefly political centers in the high Andes coincided with strong internal differentiation at the community level, and that Recuay elite practices and monumentalism emerged out of local corporate traditions.