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Ancient Origins of the Mexican Plaza

From Primordial Sea to Public Space

By Logan Wagner, Hal Box, and Susan Kline Morehead

Publication Year: 2013

Extensively illustrated with detailed site plans and photographs, this architectural history of the Mexican plaza reveals why this central public space has been the heart of the community from ancient Mesoamerican times until the present.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Roger Fullington Series in Architecture


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

Authors’ Note

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pp. ix-xiv


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pp. xv-19

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pp. 1-2

The Mexican plaza is the most complete expression of Mexico’s rich four-thousand-year-old multifaceted heritage. It is the open-air heart of every Mexican neighborhood, town, and city—its communal living room. The plaza is part of an ensemble of secular and sacred communal open spaces that include the cloister; the sacred patio, or atrio, of the church; and sometimes a civic or market plaza. The evolution and comparison of these dynamic spaces shaped...

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1. The Primordial Sea: Forming Open Space in Mesoamerica

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pp. 3-32

The concept of the plaza might have been created when hunter-gatherers selected a stopping place in their wilderness world and marked it, perhaps by laying three stones, to identify it as a place known to them, a place to which they could return, a place that could center their group for the task of finding food. That three-stone place, or...

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2. Forming Spanish Towns in Mesoamerican Culture

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pp. 33-60

As Mesoamerica flourished during the fifteenth century, with cities as large as those in Europe,1 the cultures of the two continents had no idea that the other existed or that they would make dramatic contact. Two distinct peoples with completely different and proud backgrounds meeting in the Americas would create a third culture. To aid in understanding the mind-set of the sixteenth-century Europeans who would come to Mesoamerica, let us consider...

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3. Sixteenth-Century Communal Open Spaces (Five Hundred Years Later)

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pp. 61-194

With the scholarship and field observations of earlier generations in hand, such as work done by Manuel Toussaint, George Kubler, John McAndrew, Elizabeth Wilder Weisman, and others, we organized our teams to examine sixteenth-century towns formed by the fusion of Mesoamerican and Spanish planning concepts. It seemed appropriate to expand the previous scholarship by considering the interior of the church and the public plaza as two extensions...

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4. Origins and Evolution

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pp. 195-196

The discovery and subsequent colonization of the continent of America by Europeans, two conceptually different cultures, began a process of acculturation that transformed both. The dialogue that ensued was initiated within the Mesoamerican open urban space, space that would be transformed by the overlay of the conquering culture’s own ideas of urban design and the incorporation of plazas...

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Epilogue. Plazas in the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 197-202

An important part of our study considers how plazas create the central meeting place or “living room” for a neighborhood, town, or city. We wanted to find out how these spaces actually work as social centers and what particular ingredients and relationships are necessary to give plazas the vitality we still see in them today. There is a possibility...

Appendix. Measured Drawings: Plans of Towns

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pp. 203-218


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pp. 219-254


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pp. 248-251


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pp. 252-263


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pp. 264-273

E-ISBN-13: 9780292721487
E-ISBN-10: 029272148X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292719163
Print-ISBN-10: 0292719167

Page Count: 273
Illustrations: 332 color and b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Roger Fullington Series in Architecture