By Juan Manuel Rodriguez Caso
Ciudad Universitaria (University City) is the main campus of UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), erected over a volcanic ground, is located at the south of the country’s capital, a coarse place called El Pedregal (the Rockyland), covered by the lava resulted from the eruptions of several volcanoes more than six thousand years ago (the most important, the Xitle volcano around 100 AD), and since then it invited everyone the contemplation of its exotic landscape.
Constructed between the years of 1950 and 1954, University City exemplifies the cultural and political life of Mexico since its construction. The buildings of the Campus clearly show the interpretation of the Modern International Architecture postulates, rationalist, technical, and objective, but at the same time, also of the traditional Mexican architecture. The University City is a true fusion, the result of the union without precedents of the Modern Mexican architects, more than sixty architects interacted to give origin to one of the most emblematic complexes of the Modern Mexico.
The stone used as raw material in the construction of the complex evokes directly the tectonics strength of the volcanic mantle, the rooting with the site, and the millenarian past, reflected in the Olympic Stadium and in the Handball Courts: the latter acquire their shape from the pre-Hispanic traditional Ball Game. Both pieces achieve a forceful abstraction and geometric rigor. The modernity and technological innovation the country was experimenting at that time are represented with the use of steel, glass and shown concrete, and synthesize the influence form international models of the 20th century.
University City it is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List since July 2nd, 2007, due a significant exceptionally values:
It is the physic concretion of many University members longings to unite the University facilities that were spread around the Historical Center of Mexico City since its origin during the Hispanic time, as it represents the Mexico National Autonomous University presence in the country for more than 450 years.
The open space, the setting and the spatial relation appear as a tribute to the pre-Hispanic Mexico, and also, as a promise towards its future.
The Campus has architectural exceptionality value due to the syncretism presented by its buildings, where the Mexican architectural tradition its harmonically combined with the most demanding postulates of the Modern Architecture, generating through reflection and integration an identity of its own.
University City is in itself an evocation of the modern man, of the site, and its history. Its creation is the same as for the Modern Mexican, it reflects the continuity of the post-Revolutionary Process; the Nationalist Modernity melts with the ideals of the Modern World and the Universal Man.
University City stands as a universal symbol for the transmission of culture through time. Its particular case is about an institution created during the cultural cross-breeding between Europe and America initiated in 16th century and formalized since 1554, year of the Royal and Pontifical University founding, predecessor of the today Mexico National Autonomous University.
The aesthetic and social relevance are revealed through the plastic integration on the Campus architecture. The merge of architecture and plastic placed the complex into an ancestral and modern space of time, represented on its murals; Muralism is an integral element of architecture. The same way that in the antique Mexican times the codices were used, murals in modern Mexico represent graphically a cultural and didactic message; Architecture and art in the Campus are a metaphor for life and knowledge.
University City is directly linked to the work of outstanding individuals internationally recognized by their contributions into several knowledge fields; scientists and humanists have received the highest level prizes, as the Nobel; artists that have left an invaluable artistic heritage for mankind, and promoted the Mexican culture by using original and expressive languages from the 20th century, such as Muralism.
More than fifty years after its creation, the Campus continues as an example of the interdisciplinary collaboration that prevailed among the consulters and specialists in different knowledge fields, with the architects in charge of the translation of the programs into buildings where the majority of Mexican professionals’ generations had studied since.
The outstanding environmental value of the Campus refers to the University validity as an example of sustainability and ecological development before the city, by maintaining the vastest Pedregal Ecological Reserve within all Mexico City.
University City maintains and preserves within its limits a unique Ecological Reserve that has already been declared under protection.
The central space of the Campus central allows to the meeting and coexistence of the University community and the original natural conditions of the site.
For all these characteristics, University City became an obligate place to visit, for being the main venue of the science and culture in Mexico since the 1950s.