Mexico City: A Visit to the University of Mexico City (UNAM)

By William Haseltine

I visited to the Campus of the University of Mexico City (UNAM). This is the largest of Mexico's Universities. More than 600,000 students are enrolled at the many campuses of this great University. Each of the Mexican states has its own university system.
I remembered spectacular murals and beautiful architecture from a visit many decades ago. The reality far exceeded my expectations.
The campus, built between 1950 and 1952, was designed by three architects Carlos Novoa, Carlos Lazo and Gustavo Tavesi. It is a model of functionally beautiful design. Each building is separated by wide green space and surrounded by generous plaza. The buildings and their placement are themselves works of art. The entire campus is designated as a World Heritage site.
The masterpiece is the mosaic clad central library. Juan O'Gorman, a Mexican artist of Irish descent is the artist. One façade depicts the gods on the Aztec, another science, the God of the modern world. The second great façade illustrates the Spanish conquest and cultural influence. The fourth side illustrates scenes of the Mexican Revolution. The building and mosaics are unique in my experience. It is a wonder that more buildings in this world are not so enhanced.
A second tower is enhanced by a tree dimensional mural by Siqueiros. The art is an integral part of the building. Here a hand reaches to write the future (It ends 19??-We now wonder what 2??? will bring).

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William Haseltine


The details of the campus are pleasing. Translucent golden onyx slabs decorate exterior and light interior spaces. The rough lava faces of Aztec Gods peer across fountains and from supporting walls. Outdoor lamps are built into stone spheres reminiscent of the mysterious Costa Rican granite spheres.
The UNAM campus is an integral work of beauty, worth a trip to visit and enjoy.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2010/07/mexico-city-a-visit-to-the-university-of-mexico-city-unam/60183/