16.2.09

Guatemalan Architecture and the emblematic buildings of the Modern Movement

Guatemala, with an immense architectural and urban legacy from its Mayan roots, tells its own history and ideological development through its artistic and cultural manifestations, Architecture is one of these that expresses the people’s spirit.

The aesthetic expressions are the result of a fusion between the folklore and the academy. Nevertheless; it is said that after the arrival of the Europeans, the construction systems and construction equipment, were changed and adapted to the geographic and topographic characteristics of the area, since non of old treaties of Serlio or Palladio brought by the conquerors were reproduced with accuracy due to the intense seismic activity that prevails in the country.

For that reason the concept of the Baroque and Ultra-Baroque styles would acquire a very particular and original adaptation that only could be obtained in this country. Besides the earthquake of 1773 forced the colonial settlement of Santiago de los Caballeros moved to a new location in the nearby valley La Ermita in 1776.

When independence took place, most important buildings obeyed to the style of foreign architecture, one of the reasons why most of them have neoclassical ornamentation but their disposition in terms of architectural space adapted to the natural surroundings where it is located.

After seven decades of liberal governments, the change came of 1944 democratic revolution and with new prevailing policies, the private architectural practice decreased, although a new era was arriving. By this time some of the first public modern buildings began to emerge.

Surpassing the recession and the old prevailing paradigms, between 1950 and 1968, the architectural production began to formulate space alternatives for society’s new needs. The most important was that conceptualization would take a different direction: concrete plane roof replaced the Spanish clay tile roof and the old bell towers and domes gave place to a new skyline.

This architectural legacy was possible because of the visionary work of masterful architects like Roberto Aycinena, Jorge Montes Córdoba, Carlos Haeussler, Raúl Minondo, Pelayo Llarena, among others, who left a legacy to Guatemalan history with the construction of the Civic Center and the State’s University central campus.


Civic Centre

The buildings of the Civic Centre was conceived as an urban unity, where sculpture and murals were a part of the architectural body, in such a way that if they ever separated, that unit would be disintegrated, losing its rhythm and sense.

Architect Aycinena, then Chief Designer of City Hall, was in charge of planning this work, which, according to his evaluation, has been very much respected.

The new proposal, united by means of a subtle guiding threads, -the murals of Maestro Carlos Mérida- consisted in creating a civic landscape with artificial elements. Within the architectural values of the group of buildings forming this center it is worthy to emphasize the solution for lightning and ventilation, accomplished through the orientation of structures and the use of brise-soliel and plastic integration between murals, sculpture and architecture.




City Hall Building

Source:
Br. Samuel Mérida, DG.
Edited:
Mda. Arq. E. Saravia


Possibly it is difficult to conceive the magnitude of this project, since urban proposal was never completed, however, using your imagination, you can take a glimpse of what would have been the unit of plazas of horizontal circulation that would develop on the roof of the first floor of Bank of Guatemala building to conduct pedestrians from a train station –located exactly behind this bank- toward the City Hall and to the Cultural Center Miguel Angel Asturias.








Guatemala Social Security Institute Building.
Carlos Mérida.
"Social Security allegory" 1960

Source:
http://www.galasdeguatemala.com







With certainty, you can say that this urban complex still maintain alive the principles on "The heart of the city", and becouse its the testimony of a particular and local way to understand the modernity it was declarated national heritage.


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Source:
Dr. Arq. Raúl Monterroso
Arq. Rafael Aycinena
Mda. Arqta. Sonia Fuentes
Mda. Arq. Edwin Saravia