Over coffee at Sweetish Hill on West 6th St in Austin, Architect Hal Box shared his thoughts on the new book he's writing about plazas in Mexico. He and coauthor Logan Wagner (Texas A&M University School of Architecture) have measured 90 plazas and have an extensive collection of drawings and photographs to accompany the drawings.
I asked about the Spanish influence on South Texas towns and he mentioned the plaza in Laredo, but went back to the origins of the project's theme.
"The plaza actually originates in Meso-American sacred sites, or we're working on proving that," Box explains. "For example, the open space adjacent to a pyramid might actually (mythologically) represent the primordial sea where the gods lived and from which the people themselves emerged," he adds.
"When the Spanish came, they built around those spaces. In colonial cities and towns, the plaza evolved to become the heart of the town, where people went every day to share information, keep up with the news, and just experience the life of the community,"
"The courthouse square in Texas is not quite the same, but that's another aspect of the plaza concept we're working on. And the last chapter of the book will include some ideast for how to adapt the plaza totoday's cities in the hope that we can reclaim some of the suburban space where there is little community identity." The book will be published by The University of Texas Press (www.utexas.edu/utpress Look for Hal Box's last book, Think Like an Architect which was a featured title in the 2008 Texas Book Festival - www.texasbookfestival.org)