The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), located in downtown Mexico, is the largest university in Latin America, and one of the leading university of the Spanish-speaking world. Up until about seventy years ago, the university occupied a series of ancient palaces and buildings belonging to its preceding institution, the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, which closed in 1867. In 1943, the University decided that instead of having the campus spread across various buildings in the city center, a new and consolidated university campus was needed. The master plan was drawn up by architects Mario Pani and Enrique del Moral, and a team of more than 60 designers built one of the most beautiful university campuses around the world.
The site includes university buildings, sports facilities such as the Olympic Stadium, Cultural Center, Central Library and several museums. They are surrounded by vast open spaces, esplanades and gardens. Many of the buildings are covered with murals painted by some of the most recognized artists in Mexican history such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. The university’s extensive modern architecture merged with features based on pre-Hispanic Mexican tradition has earned it a place in UNESCO’s world heritage site list as “one of the most significant icons of modern urbanism and architecture in Latin America, recognized at universal level.”
One of the highlights of the campus is the Central Library, a ten-story building covered with massive mosaic stone murals depicting the ancient history of Mexico done with Aztec and Spanish motifs. Each of the four walls represents a different era. The North wall depicts the Pre-Hispanic Past, the South wall depicts the Colonial Past, the East wall depicts contemporary Mexico, while the West wall depicts the University. The murals were done by Juan O’Gorman. The tiles had to be sourced from all around the country because of the large number of colors needed for the construction.
This feature originally appeared in Amusing Planet.