Architecture in Mexico

Image of ruins in Mexico

Architecture in Mexico

Location: Mexico
Language of Instruction: English
Term: Summer
Academic Disciplines: Architecture
Program Type: Faculty-led
Open to non-KU Students: No
Fulfills KU Core 4.2: No
Fulfills KU Core 5: No

Participants will visit the ancient Mayan cultures of the Yucatan Peninsula to vibrant, cosmopolitan Mexico City, the country’s capital, and its richly cultural surroundings to the traditionally preserved colonial cities of Puebla and Oaxaca.

The purpose of this program is to experience the transformation Mexico has undergone for more than two millennia as an outcome of the transition between three major historical periods: the Ancient, the Colonial and the Contemporary. These time frames represent cultural layers superimposed over time that comprise what is today’s Mexican culture. Participants will study the architecture of Mayan Yucatan, Mixtec/ Zapotec Oaxaca, Aztec Mexico City and its evolution to the present.

The program is guided by Alejandro Aptilon, a native of Mexico himself who has practiced, taught, and researched Mexican architecture extensively, the 21-day program will visit some of the most representative sites of all three historic periods. Participants will visit the ancient Mayan cultures of the Yucatan Peninsula to vibrant, cosmopolitan Mexico City, the country’s capital, and its richly cultural surroundings to the traditionally preserved colonial cities of Puebla and Southwest Oaxaca. 

In addition to the rich and diverse architecture --including the touring of architectural practices-the emphasizes the perception of its context. We will analyze the impact of the intense Mexican natural light and the use of local materials in architecture. In parallel, we will explore the local culture deeply rooted in ancient tradition and its progressive evolution from its sophisticated cuisine to local craftsmanship, the natural surroundings, and its resources. 


2023 Dates:

Depart U.S. and arrive in Mexico: May 21, 2023

Depart Mexico City for U.S.: June 10, 2023

Yucatán (5 days)

We start the program in Yucatan Peninsula and visit the Mayan majestic sites of Chichen Itza (Castle and Observatory), Uxmal and Kabah. We will stay in the city of Mérida and explore the contrasting architectures, including visits to the colonial Cathedral, and the recently built Palace of the Music (Alejandro Medina Arquitectura, Reyes Rios Larrain Arquitectos, Muñoz Arquitectos and Quesnel) and Fábrica de Movimiento Juvenil (Iwan Baan). Day trips will include visits to a natural Cenote (natural well used for ritual purposes by the Mayans) and neighboring old Haciendas some of which have been transformed into contemporary designed boutique hotels. 

Mexico City and surrounding area (12 days)

We then fly from Merida to Mexico City. While in Mexico City we will study ancient, colonial and contemporary buildings. We will visit the following places: Chapultepec Park and Reforma Avenue; Highrise buildings (Richard Rogers, Teodoro González de León); 19th century Castle of Chapultepec; Tamayo Museum (Zabludovsky and González de León), National Auditorium performance hall (Zabludovsky and González de León), Restaurant del Lago (Félix Candela), Anthropology Museum (Pedro Ramírez Vázquez).

We will also visit the vibrant Polanco neighborhood and the 1940’s California Baroque style houses; Tour of professional photographer Claudia Nierman’s apartment at the Parque del Reloj; Soumaya Museum of art (Fernando Romero); Jumex art collection Museum (David Chiperfield). We will also stroll through Condesa and Roma neighborhoods include the functionalist architecture and early 20th century art deco buildings and early buildings by Barragán. Contemporary housing by Javier Sánchez, Isaac Broid, Enrique Norten and Alejandro Aptilon among others. 

Additionally, we will visit the Centro Histórico downtown historic district, the grand Cathedral --built upon the Aztec temples-- facing the second largest square in the World; the Museo Templo Mayor archelogical museum that houses the findings of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan; Palacio de las Bellas Artes (Adamo Boari) with paintings by the great Mexican muralists; Contemporary housing infill projects; National Library by Alberto Kalach.

We will also visit the San Ángel neighborhood which includes visit to early 20th century functionalist architecture of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo houses (Juán O’Gorman) and the Bazar del Sábado traditional crafts market and the colonial Plaza de San Jacinto. 

We will also visit the contemporary collection of buildings at the Centro Nacional de las Artes in Tlalpan with buildings by Teodoro González de León, Ricardo Legorreta, Enrique Norten and Juan Sordo Madaleno; Visit to the Convento de las Monjas Capuchinas (Luis Barragán).

Teotihuacan & Acolman

We will take day trips to 1500’s Ex-convent of Acolman now a museum and the great pyramids of the Teotihuacan archeological site (circa 400 BCE). 

Mexico City: architecture schools and firms

We will also visit architecture schools and an architectural firm in Mexico City. The two architecture schools in Mexico City include the UNAM, the first university in the Americas, founded in 1553, and its 1950’s campus inspired by Le Corbusier urban proposals. The UNAM campus has exemplary buildings of the “Integración Plástica” tendency by Félix Candela, Juan O’Gorman, and murals by Siqueiros and other exponents of Muralist art in Mexico. We will also visit the Centro de Diseño, Cine y Televisión in its new campus designed by Enrique Norten. We will also visit an architectural firm in Mexico City. 

Puebla & Oaxaca (4 days)

We will take a day trip to Puebla enroute to Oaxaca. In Puebla we visit to the Ex Convento de Santa Rosa, Biblioteca Palafoxiana; Museo Amparo (Enrique Norten); Downtown and the Cathedral. In Oaxaca will visit the Mercado, Cathedral, and a day trip to the Zapotec/ Mixtec archaeological sites; a traditional rug factory; and Árbol del Tule.


5 Year Master of Architecture Students will enroll in:

•    Arch 690 Study Abroad (5 Credits)

•    Arch 692  Documentation (3 Credits) this 3 credit documentation will result in a report due prior to Fall 2023. 

2 or 3 Year Master of Architecture Students will enroll in:

•    Arch 690 Study Abroad (6 Credits)

Interior Architecture Students will enroll in:

•    IAD 690 Study Abroad for Interior Architecture (5 credits)

Architectural Engineering Students will enroll in:

•    Arch 690 Study Abroad (5 Credits)

Students will stay in double or triple-occupancy rooms at hotels with breakfast daily. 

The program is open to all Architecture and Interior Architecture Students with Study Abroad requirements. 

Prior to the study abroad program:

•    KU Master of Architecture Students (3 year or 5 year program) should have completed ARCH 209 or ARCH 502 

•    Interior Architecture Students should have completed Arch 109.  

The following additional students are eligible on a space-available basis:

•    KU Design students who have completed third year and have drawing experience

•    KU Architectural Engineering students who have completed ARCH 200


Alejandro Aptilon is an Assistant Teaching Professor at the KU School of Architecture and Design.

His award-winning architectural firm has been commissioned to design projects in Mexico, Israel,

and the United States and was selected by the AIA Gallery in New York as a representative of

emerging trends in Mexican architecture. Aptilon has taught in both the undergraduate and graduate art and architecture programs at various academic institutions in Mexico and the U.S. He has written extensively about Mexican architecture and produced a documentary series on Mexico City architecture for Mexico’s public television network. His work has been widely exhibited and published internationally in numerous periodicals and books, including Global Architecture and compendia such as 1000X Architecture of the Americas (Braun, 2008), and he is co-author with Alfonso Pérez-Méndez of the book Las Casas del Pedregal 1947-1968 (Gustavo Gili, 2007).

For more information contact:

Alejandro Aptilon

Assistant Teaching Professor                                                                    

University of Kansas

Architecture Department