An Architectural Photoessay
The postwar return of several young Guatemalan architects like myself, graduates from mainly Mexican and U.S. universities (including the Harvard Graduate School of Design) gave rise to the development of what would be known as Guatemala’s modern architecture.
Like the country’s traditional architecture, modern buildings are inspired by the country’s privileged climate and luxurious vegetation, favoring a style that integrates interior space with the outside and permits greenery and light to assume a very important role in diverse environments.
Our architecture has slowly evolved from its pre-Columbian heritage represented by massive stone constructions richly decorated with bas-reliefs and stucco masks, and stellae inscribed with delicate carvings of noblemen and Mayan glyphs.
The Spanish Colonial Period brought in churches and important buildings influenced by the Renaissance and European Baroque, along with domestic constructions which consisted, basically, of a central courtyard surrounded by rooms and roofed with clay tiles.
Both tendencies produced in our architecture a very strong aesthetic base and a very particular sense of proportion reflected in most of its magnificent examples of modern buildings.
The 20th century brought us movements that were flourishing in the Western world, particularly in Europe. These were exemplified by Art Deco, the principles of the “Nouveau Esprit” of Corbusier and the dictums of the Bauhaus School.
Since the early 1960s, Guatemala’s young architects have produced a very rich array of building styles. One example, where the Mayan textile design blends in with a central courtyard scheme, is the Museo Ixchel at the Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala City.
Here, in this photoessay, you can see the legacies of the past and the shaping of a modern future of modernity.
Peter Giesemann, a member of the Harvard Club of Guatemala, graduated from Harvard College in 1961, received his Master in Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1965 and became affiliated with the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala in 1968. A practicing architect, he has published widely in magazines and books.