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Powerful civilizations such as the Maya,

Aztecs, and Incas are of the pre-Hispanic

Americas. They developed a strong
architecture based on simple forms and
massive in size. For the Aztecs, their large
pyramids connected humans, nature, and
the cosmos through chains of artificial
mountains. The monuments of Central and
South America tend to be felt as sinister and
remote due to being associated with
sacrifices and such. Spanish and Portuguese
invaders would bring Baroque architecture
that flourished from Santiago de Cuba to
Santiago de Chile. Rituals and customs were
no less bloody than the ones they attempted
to replace.

A feeling of astonishment went through

the Spanish conquistadores when they
literally burned their boats and fought
their way to the heart of Mexico in a
spirit of death or glory. They found
architecture and cities on a great
monumental scale. Teotihuacan had
great avenues leading to and from
capacious plazas.
Vast stepped pyramids topped by
temple platforms revolted even the
Spaniards, where daily human
sacrifices were demanded by the
gods. The sun would refuse to rise unless
a fresh, still-beating heart was held to
the sun and hurled down with the
young individuals body.
The Great Temple of Teotihuacan
hosted around 10,000 and 80,000
slaughtered 4 at a time ritually, from
sunrise to sundown, for four days.
Despite worse things that were to
happen in 20th century Europe, it was
still a terrifying prospect.

50 BCE was when the Pyramid of the Sun,

Teotihuacans most impressive monument, was
built by the Avenue of the Dead, which had
canals, bridges, and great meeting places. There
are speculations of ideas having gotten there
from Egypt and North Africa to Mesoamerica.
The Pyramid of Sun was impressive, especially for
its size of 712 ft (217 m) from its base to an
elevation of 187 ft (57 m). It dominated the
central avenue with numerous attendant temples
that it overshadowed, even more so when with its
temple top.
Pyramid forms were found in North and Central
America around 200 BCE, and continued for at
least another 800 years, with the earliest designs
being those of the Mayans. Stepping up steeply in
many tiers, they were crowned with temples and
adorned by curious stone plumes, probably the
headpieces of priest and warriors. They peeked
above the trees, and there are speculations of
more hiding among them.
Temples were all arrange with heavenly bodies.
Also, the Mayan calendar famously was
accurate, despite the lack of its use. The temples
were built with plastered an polished shining
stone, with a favorable color of red. It was not
only found in quantity, but represented the blood
that was spilled on it.

Much of the Aztec people would have lived in the

open air. Buildings appear to be lit from the doors,
and there is a lack of interior decoration, if any.
Among the little we know of their architecture
include the temple, governors palaces, and
fascinating ball courts, a kind of indoor soccer
field from the 8th century CE.
Copan in Honduras near Guatemala and
Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico are wellpreserved ones. Their walls boast murals
suggesting the losing team would be ritualistically
Uxmal in Yucatan is an ancient ruined city of
typical Mayan architecture around the period
600-900 CE. There are in addition to residential
quarters, the Governors House, the Temple of the
Magician on a large pyramid, and the Nunnery
Quadrangle with four building around a courtyard
probably used to house priests.
Rooms did not seem to be connected, however
there was no discomfort in walking from one room
out to another as the climate is hot.
The Governors House at Uxmal is decorated in
distinctive molded panels which would have
originally been inlaid with relief sculptures carved
into stone mosaic. Effects of the sun on these
would be spectacular. Frank Lloyd Wright would
later use this type of idea and motif in his famous
designs of buildings.

A stone-walled fortress city located

high between two mountain peaks
overlooking the Urubamba River far
below, Machu Picchu (1500) is the most
dramatically sited of the pre-conquest
American monuments, more so for its
location than architecture.
It is risen on a complex series of
terraces with ruins of buildings such as
houses, palaces, stores, temples, and
graveyards, all solidly built in stone.
Few decorative and structural material
are found, and one cant simply
imagine how the Andean citadel may
have appeared 500 years ago. Many
buildings do seem to have had
windows, with a possibility of a more
civilized people residing there. The
works of man and nature are found
here to make a spectacular creation,
seamlessly united.

America was settled over

thousands of years, and when
Christopher Columbus arrived
in the Caribbean by 1492 CE,
he did not discover the
However, what the Genoese
navigator did do is open the
region up to the rest of the
While suffering many cruel
effects of being discovered,
the Americas were gifted with
an architecture that flourished
in the tropical, mountain, and
rain forest climates.



Earlier colonial architecture tended to be in the

form of impressive fortresses needed to keep rival
European powers and pirates at bay. Havana
developed like this starting from 1519.
Many different buildings were built there, such as:
Castillo de la Real Fuerza (1558-82) by
Bartolome Sanchez
Fortaleza de San Salvador de la Punta
(completed 1600)
Castillo del Morro (1587-1630); both by Giovanni
Battista Antonelli (father and son of the son
Cristobal de Toda
Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabana (17631773)
Another famous work is the Palacio de los
Capitanes-Generales (1772-76), now the Museum
of the City in Plaza de Armas. It is one of the finest
buildings of the Americas, built of heavy coral
limestone and forming a city block arcaded and
gathered around a large courtyard.
Behind a faade of impressive stone coats of
arms, Corinthian columns, and huge barred
window openings, the courtyard is graced with
birdsong and magnificent trumpetwood and
yagruma trees. (Glancey 98). Now home to the
city historian, the palace together with the
Covento de Santa Clara is one of Havanas most
magnificent renovation programs.

In Cuba, major restoration works of the 1970s

included the whole of Trinidad, one of the
several towns and places of major
architectural and historical interest. It was
declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
From Mexico down into Central and South
America, the Spaniards lead by Hernan
Cortes from 1519 Havana, developed a for of
Baroque architecture. This form depended on
florid doorways and porches for much of its
Examples of this are the highly exaggerated
Zacatecas Cathedral (1612) by Francisco
Jimenez in Mexico and the encrusted
entrance and twin western towers of the
church of San Sebastian and Santa Prisca
Taxco (1751-81).
This love of fecund ornament was endemic
to many American cultures, In rural Mexico,
whether in Hidalgo, Puebla, or Traxcala,
Indians still build wooden houses, thatched
earth rooftop in complex and deliciously
decorative layers of sun-dried rye, the stalks of
maguey plants, palm, grass, or cactus.
(Glancey 99).

As mentioned before, the flamboyant

Baroque style spread down to South America
with Spanish and Portuguese explorers,
traders, and such. In the very heart of the
Amazonian rain forest, a great architectural
surprise was built. It was the Opera House at
Manaus, named after the local indigenous
Manau tribe and foudned by Francisco do
Motta Falco in the early 17th century.
The building was raised at the banks of Rio
Negro that flows into the Amazon some six
miles downstream. Climate is one of intense
humidity and torrential rain for half the year.
Termites, damp, and other bugs devour
buildings. Thus, the worlds most unlikely opera
house Teatro Amazonas was rebuilt no fewer
than 4 times since 1929.
Italian style with a wrought-iron frame shipped
from Scotland is its form. Stone and marble
cladding and chandeliers are from Italy, while
tiles and bronze fittings are from France.
Restoration in 1990 rendered the building pink
as it was when opened. It is a dreamlike
symbol of a dramatic and decidedly
baroque land.

The architecture of the Pacific Islands

was varied and sometimes large in scale.
Buildings reflected the structure and
preoccupations of the societies that
constructed them, with considerable
symbolic detail. Technically, most
buildings in Oceania were no more than
simple assemblages of poles held
together with cane lashings; only in
the Caroline Islands were complex
methods of joining and pegging known.
(Newton 1).
Architecture is on a grand scale (at Sepik
Basin in Papua New Guinea). For
example, the mens ceremonial houses of
the Iatmul have towering steeples at
either end and are also repositories of
architectural sculpture; those of the
Abelam have single huge gables entirely
covered in vivid bark paintings. (Funk &
Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia).

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