Form and Pedagogy

The Design of the University City in Latin America

Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro


This book examines the design and legacy of the principal Latin American campuses built in the past 60 years. 


9 x 12.5" Portrait
Publication date: 
January 2015
Rights world: 

Of the twentieth-century large-scale design interventions inscribed into the Latin American city, the university campus is the most salient symbol of progress. The academy became an epicenter of twentieth-century architectural and urban experimentation and a unique urban development within major Latin American cities. The project examines the design and legacy of the principal Latin American campuses built in the past 60 years. Furthermore, the project traces the continental and transcontinental design influences that shaped these grounds, and map their spatial evolution. Finally, it explores the relevance of the autonomous university campus as an urban development pole in the city. The massive urban expansion that occurred in major Latin American cities in the postwar era created a widespread impetus for new learning environments.

Several Latin American nations that viewed education as an emblem of progress and civility established university-cities. This trend drew influential architects and planners, creating synergies between schools of architecture and planning, national and international design practitioners, and visual artists. Among the exemplars of this synergy is the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), where a master plan by Mario Pani and Enrique del Moral, UNAM School of Architecture professors, was complemented by architectural contributions by midcentury Mexican Modernists, and works from world-renowned Mexican artists. Similar synergies are seen in the Universidad de Puerto Rico, with Henry Klumb heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, and in Carlos Raúl Villanueva's Ciudad Universitaria in Caracas. The Latin American campus became a unique architectural laboratory, generating a design dialogue across national borders and continents.

While some of these campuses have been studied as national projects, and others have not been profiled at all, an examination of them as a continental enterprise has yet to be proposed. The publication, by singling out the architectural value of each campus and pairing it with texts from influential Latin American Architectural historians raises a unique awareness about the state of these grounds in order to equalize the conservation policies for each of these institutions, which today are unbalanced from campus to campus, and in some instances, from building to building within a single university.

About the author: 

Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro is a Mexican designer, architect and urbanist. His research and design work departs from a trans-scalar approach to design that spans from fashion and interior furnishings to urban landscapes and open territories.Before establishing his own design practice, Carlos worked for diverse design studios including Gabellini Shepard Associates in New York City and the Alexander McQueen fashion house in London. He holds a BFA and a B.ARCH from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MAUD with distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Carlos is a Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, teaches in the Urban Design Core Studio. Carlos has expanded his thesis research Concrete Matters: Beyond Stillbirth Infrastructure and last Spring Co-taught a studio at Harvard with Felipe Correa titled: Between Geometry and Geography: Mexico City. In 2012, he received the Druker Traveling Fellowship from the Harvard Graduate School of Design for his project: “Form and Pedagogy: An Atlas of the Twentieth Century University City in Latin America” that explores the historical evolution of these campuses across Latin America and the diverse design synergies that tie them together.

Peter G. Rowe is the Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and University Distinguished Service Professor at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, where he has taught since 1985.