Study Tour Fellow Reports



Mexico City Modernism - Day 4 – August 7, 2010 – Scale

by User Not Found | Aug 07, 2010
by

Amanda Delorey

Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán

Our fourth day offers us some of the most exciting sites of the trip – as O’Rourke put it, “This day is definitely about scale!” Our first site of the day is the ancient city of Teotihuacán, which was at its pinnacle around 400-550 CE with around 125,000 people – making it one of the largest cities in the world. Spared by the Spanish as a non-threatening site, the ruins have survived quite well and offer amazing insight into the urban planning and scale of this ancient city.

Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán

The two largest structures, the pyramid of the sun and the pyramid of the moon, are placed along a long north-south street that contains many recessed spaces, like shallow inverted pyramids to walk through. It is amazing to walk along this street and as we approach the sun pyramid it becomes clear just how tall this thing is (my vertigo and fear of heights is setting in but I have some morale to help me do it – thanks John!). The views from above are spectacular and offer a different take on the scale of this site, in particular the harmonious grid arrangement of the city. The Pyramid of the Moon, though shorter, involves a much steeper climb. The pay-off is, again, well worth it! A view straight down the Avenue of the Dead reveals the advanced architectural and urban planning of those who built the city.

View from Pyramid of the Sun

View from Pyramid of the Sun

View from Pyramid of the Sun

View from Pyramid of the Moon, Avenue of the Dead in center

View from Pyramid of the Moon

Stairs of the Pyramid of the Moon

Lunch in a grotto nearby Teotihuacán!

After lunch, we stop by the Villa de Guadalupe to see three significant religious structures (colonial and modern) and the most important site of pilgrimage in the Americas. José Durán and Pedro de Arrieta’s Basilica Vieja (1709) and Pedro Ramírez Vázquez,  José Luis Benlluire and Gabriel Chávez’s new basilica (1976) stand adjacent to each other on a corner of the Plaza de las Americas. Inside the new basilica the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe sits above the altar.

Plaza de las Americas

Interior, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, José Luis Benlluire and Gabriel Chávez's new Basilica (1976)

Our last stop of the day was Mario Pani’s Tlatelolco housing complex. I am very interested in this site for my research and had been looking forward to walking through the massive complex to get a sense of the scale, however we got rained out shortly after we arrived! I will definitely be back in the new year and will post additional photos to SAHARA.

Mario Pani's Tlatelolco Housing Complex (1962-64)

Pani proposed a plan that would displace the existing populations and rebuild a very different space in which the ratio of built space to open, free space would be inversed. Massive multifamiliares would house all of the necessary services within the buildings and, in the company of 1000 rather than the previous 500 inhabitants per hectare, there would actually be a substantial increase to living space due to Pani’s building upwards. Pani’s Conjunto Urbano Nonoalco-Tlatelolco, for 100,000 inhabitants, spanned an immense block of land sympathetic to the existing layout of the city, but separated into three macro-blocks that looked radically different from the adjacent neighbourhoods. The housing project has no roads, apart from the three major streets crossing the width of the mega-block and a few short paths into parking lots; viewed from above, the complex is isolated visually from its surroundings by its rich green colouring and lack of structural density.

Mario Pani's Tlatelolco Housing Complex (1962-64)

The Nonoalco-Tlatelolco project, built over 198 acres with 104 acres of open, green space, contains 11,916 apartments of various sizes across 101 buildings ranging from two to twenty-four stories. Buildings of varying height stand in an orthogonal grid and each structure contains an assortment of unit types. A few landmarks in the complex play a role in the public’s recognition of the site. The large Plaza de las Tres Culturas is situated in the east end, Jardin de la Paz is in the middle and the pyramid shaped Banobras Torre is seated in the west end of the mega-block. The area surrounding the syncretic plaza site preserves both pre-Hispanic and colonial structures and gestures towards Mexico’s three major historical periods.

Aztec ruins and colonial church surrounding the Plaza de las Tres Culturas

Pani's Tlatelolco complex

The complex is now most famous as the site of the October 2nd, 1968 student massacre. The complex and its large plaza were well-known public sites, perhaps one of the reasons the student movement chose the location. Yet, the resulting use of this colossal housing complex on the night of the student movement protest offers insight into the eventual failings of the modernist housing block.

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