Architecture in Mexico

Northern America

Pre-Columbian time

The pre-Columbian architecture in Mexico is part of a Mesoamerican cultural area that stretched from Rio Panuco – Rio Lerma – Rio Sinalo in Mexico in the north to Rio Ulua in Honduras and Rio Jiboia in El Salvador in the south, which encompasses much of today’s Mexico.. Mesoamerican culture was characterized by different tribes and can be divided into three main periods: the pre-classical period ca. 2000 BC – 300 AD, the classical period ca. 300–900 and the post-classical period ca. 900-1520. Part of a rich architecture has been preserved from Mesoamerican culture. An important part of this is stair pyramids with temples or altars on an upper platform. A special feature of the Mesoamerican pyramids was that at certain intervals they were covered with a new sacred construction. Another important part is large facilities for religiously embossed ball games in the form of submerged court which was often associated with a pyramid. When it comes to the possibility of a connection between the Mesoamerican and other cultures, Egypt has been highlighted, but this is still an unsolved problem.


An important center for the Aztecs was Teotihuacán, ca. 60 km northwest of the capital Ciudad de Mexico. Among the monuments is the Pyramid of the Sun (200th century), which is the largest known building project from Meso-American culture with a base of 232 x 224 m and height approx. 62 m.

One of the oldest dated buildings in Mexico is the circular pyramid of Cuicuilco (c. 300 BC). Originally it has been approx. 20 m high and with a diameter of approx. 134 m. An important center for the Aztecs was Teotihuacán, ca. 60 km north-west of the capital Ciudad de Mexico. Among the monuments is the Pyramid of the Sun (the 20th century), which is the largest known building project from Mesoamerican culture with a base of approx. 232 x 224 m and height approx. 62 m. The Teotihuacán plant also includes the richly decorated Great Temple (c. 200-300), which was probably dedicated to the rain god Tlaloc. Another important pyramid from the classical period is El Tajan (600s).

An important center for the zapotek culture was Monte Albán in the highlands of Oaxaca, where remains of a large temple complex with pyramids and arenas for ball games are preserved (500-800s). Monte Albán was later abandoned and a new center of zapotek culture emerged in Mitla. Column Palace (1400s). Teotihuacán was destroyed by fire in the early 800’s. The incident is related to the Toltec people taking the Mexican high plains. Their headquarters were in Tula, where the snake god Quetzalcaotl was worshiped. Among the preserved monuments is the Temple of the Morning Star (about 900). The Tula facility also includes two ball game arenas. Between 1200 and 1300 the first pyramids were built in Tenayuca, which was the center of the Chichimecs. Among these is the St. Cecilia Pyramid (1300s-1400s), which in 1507 was surrounded by a low chest with 138 tubes of stone.

Mayan architecture

Mayan architecture reached a peak on the northern part of the Yucatán Peninsula with important centers such as Chichen Itzá. The picture shows the great Warrior Temple. – Picture, see also Chichén Itzá and Maya.

In the post-classical period, Mayan architecture also reached a peak in the northern part of the Yucatán Peninsula. Key centers were Chichen Itzá with the Great Warrior Temple, ball court and several pyramids (the 11th and 11th centuries), Kabáh with the richly decorated Mask Palace (900 and 1000) and Uxmal with the impressive Governor’s Palace (900- and the 1000’s).

The first colony years

The first Spanish settlement was largely based on local building practices and urban planning. An example is the reconstruction of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán as the capital of the Spanish viceroy. The Spanish monumental architecture of Mexico during the first period was characterized by Gothic or Renaissance.

Cathedral of Ciudad de México

The Cathedral of Ciudad de México, built 1573-1667 on the ruins of an Aztec temple. The Great Baroque Church is Latin America’s largest church building. 


From the middle of the 16th century the architecture was characterized by Baroque. Mexican architecture differs from the Spanish in the form of a stronger Moorish touch on the decorations, the influence of traditional, local building style and a tendency to bring the Spanish styles to the extreme. An expression of the latter is the Baroque churrigueresque style, which was first and foremost outside the major centers. An example is the western front of the Cathedral of Zacatecas (1729–52), where Domingo Ziménez Hernández is considered an architect. The cathedrals of larger cities such as the one in Ciudad de México (1563-1813) by Claudio de Arciniega, Juan Miguel de Agüero and others, and the one in Puebla (1551-1664), were designed more in line with European Baroque. The Moorish influence is, inter alia, noticeable in the use of domes crowned with octagonal lanterns. An example is the Franciscan MonasteryCapilla Real in Cholula (built in the 16th century). Another example is the pilgrimage church of El Pocito in Guadalupe (18th century).


Neoclassicism towards the end of the 18th century led to a significant change of style. Early examples are the Colegio de Minas (1792) and the newly established Real Academia de las Nobles Artes de San Carlos (1783) in Ciudad de México. The most prominent exponent of the style was the sculptor Manuel Tolsá, who also worked as an architect for eg. Palacio de Mineria (1797-1813) in Ciudad de México.

Anthropological Museum of Ciudad de México

In the Anthropological Museum of Ciudad de México (1964), designed by Pedro Ramírez Vásquez, the organization of building volumes in a closed square and the use of large terraced plateaus point back to pre-Columbian times.


After approx. In 1870, the architecture was characterized by new building tasks that were designed in a historical design language. An example is the Teatro Nacional (now Palacio de Bella Artes, 1904–34) in Ciudad de México by Adamo Boari.


Mexico, the 1920s was marked by a strong focus on the country’s colonial past. Blue. tax exemptions were granted for buildings listed in what was considered a traditional colonial style. The renewal of Mexican architecture is marked by two buildings: a hospital in Huipulco (1929) by José Villagrán García and the residence of artist couple Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo (1930), designed by Juan O’Gorman, Villagrán García’s pupil. These two buildings illustrate what has since become the main line of Mexican architecture, the desire to adapt to leading international trends and at the same time draw inspiration from the country’s pre-Columbian Native American cultures. Other inter-war architecture is otherwise characterized by white functionalism. it’s about the earliest works of Luis Barragán,

The building that has become the symbol of the fusion of Western modernism and pre-Columbian tradition is the library of the University of Ciudad de México (1952), designed by O’Gorman. With its simple monumentality and Diego Rivera’s facade mosaics, the building evokes clear associations with the excavated ceremonial villages of the Mexico Valley. In the Anthropological Museum of Ciudad de México (1964), designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, it is not the decoration of the facade, but the organization of the building volumes in a closed square and the use of large terraced plateaus that tie the connection backwards. Mention should also be made of Abraham Zabludovsky and Teodoro Gonzáles de Léon’s auditorium in the Chapultepec Park, also in Ciudad de México.

The 1950s were otherwise marked by the attempt to master the enormous growth of Ciudad de México. In the early 1950s, the entire campus was expanded according to a plan by Mario Pani and E. Moral. by Pani, who tried out the ideas that Le Corbusier had introduced with the housing complex Unité d’habitation in Marseilles. Architects such as Richard Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright have also exerted a certain influence, among others. at F. Artigas, which uses the local lava stone to contrast the large glass surfaces and to give the buildings plasticity and regional anchoring.

The Spanish-born Félix Candela developed his structural architecture with thin shell structures in concrete, first in smaller churches and chapels and then in large projects such as the sports palace built for the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico.

After World War II, Barragán worked both as a landscape architect and as a planner and developer of the Pedegral de San Angel (1946-50) development south of Ciudad de México. Towards the end of the 1950s, he continued in the simplification of his architectural design language, and the buildings were reduced to assemblages of clean surfaces and planes. But at the same time, he introduced what was to become his distinctive feature, the use of clear, powerful colors. The culmination of this process is represented by the two stalls Los Clubes (1963-69) and San Christobal (1967-68).

Ricardo Legorreta had previously collaborated with Villagrán García, but already his first independent works, such as his own office (1966) and Camino Real Hotel (1968), both in Ciudad de México, also show the relationship with Barragán with its simple surfaces and clear shiny colors. Unlike Barragán, Legorreta has also been given the opportunity to work on major projects such as the Museum of Contemporary Art (1993) and the Library (1995) in Monterrey.

The award of the Pritzker Prize to Barragán in 1980 led to the revitalization of Mexican architecture. While the previous decades were characterized by a pompous monumentality and the erection of a series of skyscrapers in an international modernist form in the center of Ciudad de México, younger Mexican architects wished to place greater emphasis on material detail and constructive rigor. Good examples of this trend are Enrique Nortens building for the Television Company (together with Ove Arup) and Lindavista cultural center(1990), and the homes of Alberto Kalach (1992) and E. Albin (1992), all in Ciudad de México. The latest projects are built on residual land in the existing urban structure and on plots that were broken after the earthquake in 1985, and illustrate the country’s work to find architecturally sustainable and economically viable solutions to the problems facing one of the world’s fastest growing cities.