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Mexican Architecture

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Looking into various sources and articles regarding the early development of Mexican architectural styles, it becomes clear that these styles developed with the influence of Catholicism, Spanish colonialism, or native-learned techniques. These architectural designs were also innovated to match the lifestyle of the people in the region.

Coming into the New World, Spanish colonizers wished to inspire awe among the indigenous people with their architectural designs as well as forming a militarily manageable landscape. These colonizers created planned townscapes and mission compounds. They planned for mission stations and churches to dominate the surrounding buildings. These were strategically placed at the center of a town square or sometimes at another higher point in the city.  Chapels, cemeteries, and cathedrals all derived their styles from early Catholic influence and Spanish colonialism. The Metropolitan Cathedral contains a variety of styles including Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical (Spanish Colonial).

Renaissance architecture originated in Europe during the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. These structures demonstrated a conscious revival while developing certain aspects from ancient Greek and Roman material culture. This style emphasizes symmetry, proportion, and geometry. Columns, pilasters, and lintels were arranged orderly. Semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, and niches were other designs used in this style of architecture (Boundless).

Baroque architecture originated in Italy during the late sixteenth century.  Similar to Renaissance, Baroque styles incorporated new rhetorical and theatrical fashion to the design to show homage toward the Catholic Church. Baroque architecture included structures with gigantism of proportions, large open central space for alter viewing, and twisting columns. Theatrical effects included light coming from a cupola above while dramatic interior effects were created with bronze and gilding. Sculpted angels were often positioned in high structures (Visual Arts).

Neoclassical architecture began in the mid-eighteenth century. This is a style derived from the architecture designs of classical antiquity, Vitruvian principles, and late-Baroque tradition such as Roman and Greek influence (Galuzin, Alex).

In the seventeenth century, one of Mexico’s most notable architectural styles was Mexican Churrigueresque. This was a seventeenth century Spanish-Baroque style of sculptural architectural ornament which developed as a manner of stucco decoration marked by expressive and florid decorative detail, having a visually frenetic style (Spanish Art) (Heathcote, Edwin).

Coming to the New World, Spanish colonizers wished to develop their cities in a fashion that would be orderly and easily navigable. Cities most often had a grid system that organized how their land and homes would be separated. This is a practice that is traced back to ancient civilizations and cities such the Aztec Empire, Mayan Empire, and even the Ancient Greeks. This was a practice spread by the conquest of European empires by the Roman civilization. One of the main benefits of this style include military advantages.

La traza was the pattern that Spanish-American cities utilized to plan and begin their building during the colonial era. In the center of Spanish colonial cities was a centralized plaza, main church, cabildo, and houses for civil and religious officials along with any other important residents (American Latino Heritage). Business structures were also located in the central areas. From the main square of town, streets were formed at right angles to represent the grid system. As time went on and the cities grew, this allowed for easy expansion as settlements and towns became more common.

In places such as Mexico City, where indigenous settlement was dense, churches were built on the sites of pre-Hispanic temples. Inside these buildings were large open-air atrium to create an enlarged sacred area. Mission churches usually had a simple construct design. These were built as part of a larger complex, allowing there to be living quarters and workshops for tenants.  

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Tejano lifestyles were heavily developed around rancho lifestyles in locations such as Texas and Mexico. Ranch structures varied and included constructions such as chapels, cemeteries, school buildings, casas de sillar, and jacales. Complex designs include structures such as cathedrals while simpler designs included structures such as wells, water troughs, and mesquite fences. Used for building structures, sillar blocks were usually quarried nearby residential areas, with materials obtained from dry arroyo. These blocks provided natural insulation for both the summer and winter seasons. Wooden beams made from cedar were used to support roofs and were sealed with gravel. The main sources of water came from wells and cisterns (Alonzo).

Most building structures were designed with adobe brick or similar substances. Adobe bricks are made with sunbaked mud and sandstone; Wooden structures were often used as support for such buildings alike. Casas de sillar are homes made from a variety of rhyolite, which is an igneous, volcanic rock. Textures made from this could be designed to look glassy, aphanitic, or porphyritic (Geology).

Jacales are adobe-style house structures which consisted of slim close-set poles tied together and filled with clay, mud, or grasses. These structures also had a dirt floor, thatched roof, and could have a window (Architecture and Urbanism of the Southwest). These were more common in the countryside although sometimes settlers would build these in town.

As society developed over time, many people had to engage in the life of haciendas. These were large estates or plantations with a dwelling house. Before the revolution of 1910, these Mexican land estates made up a high percentage of Mexico’s agricultural land. The structure of these dwellings often resembled manor houses. With long hallways and large walls, the properties stretch wide, providing plenty of room for tenants to live and reside. Tall, square or spiraling pillars were often used as studs to support the roof structure (MexConnect).



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