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While we can all think of very different examples of Mexican architecture—pyramids, cathedrals, block houses by the roadside—what almost all of it has in common is concrete.

Geologically, much of the area of the Aztec and Mayan empires is rife with limestone; in central Mexico, the Aztecs could also use tezontle a soft, reddish volcanic rock. Limestone is easily carved with hand tools into large blocks, which then harden on exposure to air.

At any rate, perhaps as early as BCE, the Mayans had sophisticated kilns to reduce limestone to cement. Both Mayans and Aztecs then developed a technique that used thinner, mortared block walls filled with cast-in-place concrete, using a coarse limestone aggregate basically, big gravel.

Using the technique to support arches, the Mayans of Yachilan built a suspension bridge over the Usumacinta River which separates Chiapas from Guatemala ; the bridge, now lost, was the longest in the world until the late s. Pre-Hispanic builders also thinned out their lime mortar to create a stucco for interior walls, which provided a wonderful surface for hieroglyphics and murals Tlaxcala, Bonampak.

The quakes of September damaged nearly 2, historical structures, of them severely. The older the structure, however, the less damage—so far, no one has identified a pre-Hispanic structure that has collapsed in an earthquake.

Hidden inside these sometimes very ornate buildings, however, was the work of indigenous masons, who used the traditional cement mortar to join stones and blocks taken from demolished pre-Hispanic sites, as well as the traditional cast-in-place concrete aggregate to fill the interior structures.

Illustrations from Spanish record books of the time, called codices, show the construction of new Christian churches as a collaborative process between indigenous masonry techniques and European applied geometry.

Despite the concrete, these colonial buildings are much more vulnerable to earthquake damage. Stone masonry walls can absorb a surprising amount of tremors and settling; if the mortar cracks, it is easily repaired.

In fact, acceptance of concrete at the time reflects a cultural desire to maintain the traditional appearance of Mexico, combined with a fervent marketing effort by the cement industry, which had rediscovered hydraulic cement in the s.

Trade journals emphasized how practical and durable it was as a building material, its decorative potential, how sanitary it was no vermin, easy to clean , how it would save the forests of central Mexico, and how, with reinforcement, it was resistant to earth tremors.

Ultimately Cemex cornered the export market, while Apasco bought by the Swiss conglomerate Holcim in dominates the internal market for cement products. The Mexican Revolution pretty much brought that to a close, but post-revolutionary administrations undertook major building programs, in part to meet increased housing needs as people started moving to urban areas, especially Mexico City. Apasco issued a complete manual in comic-book format, showing exactly how the entire family would participate in building its house.

Cemento Tolteca now a Cemex subsidiary also provided a DIY comic book, but felt it necessary to provide domestic instruction on urban living. Wash your hands after you touch them! Many illustrations of septic system and rebar layouts.

Unfortunately, this was , and they recommended corrugated asbestos roofing. They required careful design and crafting of the formwork to create a surface that expressed both the texture of the concrete and the structural design of the building. And half a dozen or so Mexican architects agreed. Born in Spain, Candela emigrated to Mexico when he was He reshaped the capabilities of reinforced concrete into thin shells that could carry the curvature of concrete out into space.

Eventually, Candela became more interested in the structural engineering of his designs than creating new designs, and became a professor in both Mexico and the U. The circle of four hyperbolic paraboloids looks like a giant seashell with eight ruffles, floating above the colorful boat-taxis on the canal. The single curve of the chapel reaches far higher than the restaurant, extending architecture into art; nonetheless, everything about the design is structurally necessary.

Peanuts can be combined into larger dwellings, or they can be craned into a neighborhood where no dwelling is more than 8 minutes away from a school, shopping, etc. Senosiain managed construction so that nearly all the natural features of the site were preserved, and much of the concrete structure is now covered with vegetation. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account.

You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. By Deborah Van Hoewyk While we can all think of very different examples of Mexican architecture—pyramids, cathedrals, block houses by the roadside—what almost all of it has in common is concrete.

Pre-Columbian Concrete—Pyramids and Bridges Geologically, much of the area of the Aztec and Mayan empires is rife with limestone; in central Mexico, the Aztecs could also use tezontle a soft, reddish volcanic rock.

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