The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization recently named the Central University City Campus of la Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico a World Heritage Site. Ranked first in the Americas and eighth worldwide in this regard, Mexico now has 27 sites recognized for their historical, cultural and natural importance.
The campus is located in the area known as the Pedregal (stony soil), in Ciudad Universitaria (College Town) south of Coyoacan. The University itself was founded in 1910, making it the oldest in North America and the largest in the world. Many consider it to be one of the best in the Spanish-speaking world.
Mexico’s newest World Heritage Site comprises the Rector Tower (which boasts exterior murals by Alfaro Siqueiros), the Central Library, the Engineering and Medical schools, and the Olympic Stadium which was constructed for the 1968 Summer Games.
The campus is located in an area where rocky platforms define different spaces, which suggested the general concept of the master plan, designed by architects Mario Pani and Enrique del Moral. It was also part of their plan to have more than sixty architects and artists participate in the design of the buildings, courtyards, gardens, open spaces and works of art. Streets and parking lots created a boarder around a world where the monumental harmonizes with human scales and different levels and types of pavements define diverse use of open spaces.
Modern Architecture Meets Mexican Tradition
The architecture of the diverse buildings found in the Central University City Campus of the UNAM are the physical and visual expressions of the cultural ideas of post-revolutionary Mexico of the mid 20th century and aims for a vision of social development through education and culture. Both urban plan and buildings show the interpretation of the international Modern Movement together with the traditional Mexican architecture.
One particular feature is the Plastic Integration, frequent in Mexican architectural history: art and architecture are understood as a whole. Some of the most relevant Mexican painters, sculptors and muralists participated in this project, among them Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
This is the second architectural site UNESCO has declared a World Heritage Site in Mexico. The house and studio of Mexican architect Luis Barragan was declared in July 2004. The house and studio were built in 1948 and are located in a suburb of Mexico City called Tacubaya. Barragan worked in the Second World-War era and his work exemplified a synthesis of modern and traditional artistic elements. The house is built from concrete and consists of a ground floor, two upper stories and a small private garden.
Since 1972, UNESCO has inscribed 788 properties in 178 countries worldwide on its World Heritage List (http://whc.unesco.org/heritage.htm) for their exceptional and universal cultural or natural importance.