UTSA, Instituto Cultural de México host book signing and presentation April 30

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(April 29, 2013) -- The UTSA College of Architecture, the UTSA Mexico Center and the Instituto Cultural de México will host a presentation on the book "Ancient Origins of the Mexican Plaza: From Primordial Sea to Public Space" at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 30 in the auditorium of the Instituto, 600 Hemisfair Park. A book signing will follow.

The book's authors, Mexican architecture scholars Susan Kline Morehead and Logan Wagner, will give the talk with an introduction by Michael Guarino, an adjunct professor in the UTSA College of Architecture.

The Mexican plaza has been a defining feature of Mexican urban architecture and culture for 4,000 years. Ancient Mesoamericans conducted most of their communal life in outdoor public spaces, and today, the plaza is still the public living room in every Mexican neighborhood, town, and city -- the place where friends meet, news is shared, and personal and communal rituals and celebrations happen. The site of a community's most important architecture -- church, government buildings and marketplace -- the plaza is both a sacred and secular space and thus the very heart of the community.

The illustrated book traces the evolution of the Mexican plaza from Mesoamerican sacred space to modern public gathering place. The authors led teams of volunteers who measured and documented nearly 100 traditional Mexican town centers. The resulting plans reveal the layers of Mesoamerican and European history that underlie the contemporary plaza.

The authors describe how Mesoamericans designed their ceremonial centers as embodiments of creation myths -- the plaza as the primordial sea from which the earth emerged. They discuss how Europeans, even though they sought to eradicate native culture, actually preserved it as they overlaid the Mesoamerican sacred plaza with the Renaissance urban concept of an orthogonal grid with a central open space. The authors show how the plaza's historic, architectural, social and economic qualities can contribute to mainstream urban design and architecture today.

Co-author Logan Wagner grew up in Mexico and resides in Austin. He is an architect, author and teacher of architectural design, architectural history and vernacular building techniques. Wagner co-authored the Mexican architecture textbook "Contemporary Mexican Design and Architecture."

Co-author Susan Kline Morehead holds an M.A. in architectural history and theory from the University of Texas at Austin, and has spent nearly 30 years directing nonprofit arts organizations at the city, state and national levels. She resides in Austin, Texas, and regularly lectures on 16th-century Mexican architecture and iconography.

Co-author Hal Box was professor emeritus and former dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. He was named dean emeritus before his passing in 2011. His 50 years' experience in teaching and practicing architecture included work on schools, churches, office and commercial buildings, dormitories, residences and urban design projects. He is the author of the architecture textbook "Think Like an Architect."

Parking for the event will be available on Cesar Chavez Boulevard. For more information, contact Nicole Chavez at 210-458-3121.