Of the twentieth-century large-scale design interventions inscribed into the Latin American city, the university campus is the most salient symbol of progress. The academy became an epicenter of twentieth-century architectural and urban experimentation and a unique urban development within major Latin American cities. The project examines the design and legacy of the principal Latin American campuses built in the past 60 years. Furthermore, the project traces the continental and transcontinental design influences that shaped these grounds, and map their spatial evolution. Finally, it explores the relevance of the autonomous university campus as an urban development pole in the city.
The massive urban expansion that occurred in major Latin American cities in the postwar era created a widespread impetus for new learning environments. Several Latin American nations that viewed education as an emblem of progress and civility established university-cities. This trend drew influential architects and planners, creating synergies between schools of architecture and planning, national and international design practitioners, and visual artists. Among the exemplars of this synergy is the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), where a master plan by Mario Pani and Enrique del Moral, UNAM School of Architecture professors, was complemented by architectural contributions by midcentury Mexican Modernists, and works from world-renowned Mexican artists. Similar synergies are seen in the Universidad de Puerto Rico, with Henry Klumb heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, and in Carlos Raúl Villanueva’s Ciudad Universitaria in Caracas. The Latin American campus became a unique architectural laboratory, generating a design dialogue across national borders and continents. While some of these campuses have been studied as national projects, and others have not been profiled at all, an examination of them as a continental enterprise has yet to be proposed.
The publication, by singling out the architectural value of each campus and pairing it with texts from influential Latin American Architectural historians raises a unique awareness about the state of these grounds in order to equalize the conservation policies for each of these institutions, which today are unbalanced from campus to campus, and in some instances, from building to building within a single university.