Ancient Origins of the Mexican Plaza: From Primordial Sea to Public Space

Hardcover | January 16, 2013

byLogan Wagner, Hal Box, Susan Kline Morehead

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The plaza has been a defining feature of Mexican urban architecture and culture for at least 4,000 years. Ancient Mesoamericans conducted most of their communal life in outdoor public spaces, and today the plaza is still the public living room in every Mexican neighborhood, town, and city—the place where friends meet, news is shared, and personal and communal rituals and celebrations happen. The site of a community's most important architecture—church, government buildings, and marketplace—the plaza is both sacred and secular space and thus the very heart of the community.

This extensively illustrated book traces the evolution of the Mexican plaza from Mesoamerican sacred space to modern public gathering place. The authors led teams of volunteers who measured and documented nearly one hundred traditional Mexican town centers. The resulting plans reveal the layers of Mesoamerican and European history that underlie the contemporary plaza. The authors describe how Mesoamericans designed their ceremonial centers as embodiments of creation myths—the plaza as the primordial sea from which the earth emerged. They discuss how Europeans, even though they sought to eradicate native culture, actually preserved it as they overlaid the Mesoamerican sacred plaza with the Renaissance urban concept of an orthogonal grid with a central open space. The authors also show how the plaza's historic, architectural, social, and economic qualities can contribute to mainstream urban design and architecture today.

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The plaza has been a defining feature of Mexican urban architecture and culture for at least 4,000 years. Ancient Mesoamericans conducted most of their communal life in outdoor public spaces, and today the plaza is still the public living room in every Mexican neighborhood, town, and city—the place where friends meet, news is shared, a...

Logan Wagner, who grew up in Mexico, is an architect, author, and teacher of architectural design, architectural history, and vernacular building techniques. He is currently Assistant Professor of Architecture at Texas A&M University. He coauthored Contemporary Mexican Design and Architecture.The late Hal Box was Professor Emeritus and...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:273 pages, 11.25 × 8.89 × 1.12 inPublished:January 16, 2013Publisher:University Of Texas PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0292719167

ISBN - 13:9780292719163

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Table of Contents

Authors' NoteAcknowledgmentsIntroductionChapter One. The Primordial Sea: Forming Open Space in MesoamericaMesoamerican Concept of SpaceMountains and AltepetlsCaves, Quatrefoils, and Sunken CourtsTypes of Open Space in MesoamericaTriad Centering * U-shaped Courts * Quadrangles Quincunx: Symbol of the CosmosBallcourtsThe Sunken Court of TeopantecuanitlánThe Dallas Plaque: A CosmogramChapter Two. Forming Spanish Towns in Mesoamerican CulturePeople and IdeasThe InvasionThe Europeans Making ContactEuropean Plazas in the Early Sixteenth CenturyOrigins of the PlazaBuilding New World TownsTypes of Towns * First Acts and Encounters Laws of the IndiesConversionQuincunx PatiosRelaciones GeográficasChapter Three. Sixteenth-Century Communal Open Spaces (Five Hundred Years Later)Caves and CrevicesAmecameca, State of México * Zoquizoquipan, Hidalgo * Valladolid, Yucatán Quincunxial ArrangementsAtlatlahuacan, Morelos * Huejotzingo, Puebla * Huaquechula, Puebla * Zacualpan de Amilpas, Morelos Terraced MountainsMolango, Hidalgo * Achiutla, Oaxaca * Yanhuitlán, Oaxaca Sunken CourtsTepoztlán, Morelos * Tochimilco, Puebla * Calpan, Puebla Ballcourts and BullringsVilla Díaz Ordaz, Oaxaca * Tlanalapa, Hidalgo * Tepeapulco, Hidalgo Open Space EnsemblesTlaxiaco, Oaxaca * Tlacolula, Oaxaca * Otumba de Gómez Farías, State of México * Tlacochahuaya, Oaxaca * Tepeaca, Puebla * Etla, Oaxaca Bishop Quiroga's Utopias in MichoacánTzintzuntzan, Michoacán * Pátzcuaro, Michoacán * Santa Fe de la Laguna, Michoacán * Erongarícuaro, Michoacán * Angahuan, Michoacán Visible Overlays and Deliberate AlignmentsMitla, Oaxaca * Hacienda Xaaga, Oaxaca * Teposcolula, Oaxaca * Coixtlahuaca, Oaxaca * Epazoyucan, Hidalgo The Yucatán ExperienceYotholín, Yucatán * Tibolón, Yucatán * Izamal, Yucatán Chapter Four. Origins and EvolutionEpilogue: Plazas in the Twenty-first CenturyThe San Miguel ExampleQualities of Successful PlazasSprawl and the American MythAppendix. Measured Drawings: Plans of TownsNotesGlossaryBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

Generously illustrated with diagrams and measured drawings of the sites analyzed, this volume also offers information on the pre-Hispanic sites and form surrounding them. Summing Up: Highly recommended. - L.E. Carranza, Roger Williams University