woensdag 29 februari 2012

Mexico, Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)

The ensemble of buildings, sports facilities and open spaces of the Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), was built from 1949 to 1952 by more than 60 architects, engineers and artists who were involved in the project. As a result, the campus constitutes a unique example of 20th-century modernism integrating urbanism, architecture, engineering, landscape design and fine arts with references to local traditions, especially to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past. The ensemble embodies social and cultural values of universal significance and is one of the most significant icons of modernity in Latin America.

King Philip II of Spain established the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico in 1551, which makes it, together with San Marcos University in Lima, Peru, the first universities in the New World. In 1865, Emperor Maximilian closed the University, which was re-opened in 1910 as the Mexico National University. After the Mexican Revolution, the University reached autonomy in 1929, in order to assure cultural development and scientific education. It was then renamed with the current denomination of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
Since its creation, the University has occupied several locations in the historic centre of Mexico City. The creation of a University City was in mind since the 1920s. In 1943, it was decided that the University would be located in the area known as Pedregal de San Ángel, next to the village of Coyoacán, located south of Mexico City. The property was then apart from the urban settlement; the name Pedregal (stony ground) refers to the type of soil and resulting landscape, product of the eruption of a volcano.
The master plan for the campus was the result of an architectural competition, in which architects Mario Pani and Enrique del Moral were awarded. Their idea was based on the urban and architectural principles of the Modern Movement, with the incorporation of components stemming from national tradition, like local materials or references to pre-Hispanic urbanism and architecture. The then developing local architectural trend of "Plastic Integration" took the incorporation of works of fine arts, especially murals, to the buildings and open spaces. For the project of the buildings, sports facilities and open spaces, the most prominent Mexican architects were invited, together with advanced students. As a result, the project for the campus involved the work, in the framework of the master plan, of some sixty architects and artists.
The works of construction started in 1949 and the official opening of the new campus took place in 1952, with courses starting in 1954. The physical conditions of the campus have not changed essentially since then; new buildings were constructed in neighbouring areas without disturbing the harmony of the original composition. At the same time, the University area includes part of the natural landscape of the Pedregal, which is protected as an ecological reserve.

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