By Juan Manuel Rodriguez Caso
Close to one of the most representative buildings related to arts and culture in Mexico, Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Arts), an architectonic jewel of marble and French style, it is one of the more distinctive places in the history of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM, in Spanish), Palacio de Minería.
It can be considered a masterpiece of Latin-American neoclassicism, situated at the end of Tacuba Street, and in front on the plaza named Manuel Tolsá (a Valencian sculptor and architect in charge of construction of the Palace), better known as “El Caballito” (“The Little Horse”), because an equestrian statue of Spanish king Charles IV. Palacio de Minería was built to house the Royal Seminar of Mines (also known as the Mining Tribunal) in order to give academic instruction to miners since 1813, after 16 years of construction.
The Palace is usually described like a majestic monument of elegant forms and exact proportions where light, space and functionality merge, and because of this, it is one of the most outstanding constructions in Mexico City, and also it is part of artistic and cultural patrimony of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), which, at present time, is under the custody of the School of Engineering.
Inside the Palace, we can find beautiful and marvellous venues like the Ancient Chapel, the Ceremonies’ Hall, the Dean’s Hall, the Principal’s Hall, and the Library, all of them great examples of mural paintings kept as the Manuel Tolsá Museum that houses academies and objects related to his duties as well as masterpieces of some other artists from his time.
In 1954, the School of Engineering moved to the new Campus, Ciudad Universitaria (University City, in the south of the city), which meant a transition era for the Palace: the first year engineering courses were taught in the new Campus, while the traditional careers, such as Mining, Geology and Petroleum Engineering stayed at the Palace, and other areas like Civil, Electromechanical and Topographical Engineering were later studied at University City.
The Palace was remodelled and restored in the next years, due a foundation and structural problems that the underground causes in Mexico City, so therefore a refurbishing of the building was carried out by the Former Students’ Society of the School of Engineering. In 1976, after the restoration, the Palace was donated to this school for the use of the school and the students.
Nowadays, this building houses the home office of the Continual and Distance Education Division (DECD), the Engineer Bruno Mascanzoni Information and Documentation Center, the Historical Archives of the Palace of Mines, the Manuel Tolsá Museum, different engineering groups as well as different administrative areas.
Every year the Palace of Mines is used as temporary home office of one of the most important world-wide known publishing events in the country: The International Book Fair.