When the first Spaniards arrived in Mexico, they couldn't believe the magnificence of the Aztec cities such as Tenochtitlán, the capital, which showed a thorough understanding of city planning, design, and well-coordinated land use and waterworks. You'll discover much of this architectural legacy preserved in Mexico's numerous pre-Columbian archaeological sites, museums, and parks.
The wide variety of colonial architecture in Mexico reflects the overwhelming influence of religious-inspired Spanish design. Many of these first churches and convents occupy former sites of indigenous buildings. In many cases they used materials and even the walls of the former structures. Strong Romanesque and Gothic features characterize the thick walls and massive buttresses of these early structures. You'll find atriums and
The sixteenth century also witnessed the arrival from Spain of the plateresque style, which features intricately carved stone doorways and decorative patterns of flowers and arabesques. You'll see the Indian plateresque style, combining a local interpretation with pre-Columbian building techniques, in some parish churches.
The seventeenth century brought baroque styles of architecture to Mexico. You can see restrained forms of this in the great cathedrals of Mexico City, Puebla, Morelia, Guadalajara, and Oaxaca. These magnificent buildings reflect not only the growing patronage of the Spanish crown, but the development of a more elaborate Mexican high baroque style called churrigueresque, reflecting the growing power of Mexican-born
Estilo churrigueresco, named after the Spanish architect Jose Benito Churiguera, is eighteenth-century Mexican high baroque, featuring gold-encrusted altars covered with heavenly beings. The Mexico City cathedral shows some of the finest examples.
Some of the churches in Puebla and Oaxaca show a uniquely Mexican variation of this style, called the Poblano style, which combines stucco ornamentation with colored tiles and red brick. The Casa de los Azulejos, or House of Tiles, in Mexico City features this style of ornamentation.
After the 1910 revolution, the functional style of the Bauhaus school began to take shape. It wasn't until the 1950s and 1960s that Mexican architecture showed the influence of Le Corbusier and his International School. Today, Mexican architects are striving to create their own unique style of contemporary architecture, examples of which you can see in the southern suburbs of Mexico City and in Monterrey.