Published September 9, 2021 | Version Journal article
Journal article Open

Visions of Modernity: Architecture, Colonialism, and Indigeneity Across the Americas

  • 1. University of Chicago


Art Style | Art & Culture International Magazine


In this essay, I use the “The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930” exhibition at the Getty Center to think through how and why criollos, Latin Americans who are solely or mostly of Spanish descent, adopted the aesthetics and techniques of Mesoamerican construction methods. I then introduce the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles to explore the resonances between Euro-American postmodernism and colonial urban planning, especially with regard to the clean lines and rational geometry of the Royal Ordinances through which the Spanish king wielded his authority in the faraway New World. In this way, I propose a revisionist history of modernism which suggest that Indigeneity played an important role in these developments as a source which was at once appropriated and disavowed. Far from being a specifically Latin American phenomenon, I argue that colonial architecture was strongly taken up in Anglo America, particularly in the Southwest (which of course only became part of the US as a result of the Mexican Cession). I argue that aspiring modernists turned to these traditions in their search for a uniquely “American” style to distinguish itself from its European inheritances, resulting in a predilection for movements such the Mission and Pueblo Revivals. I conclude with some reflections as to the potential implications of this argument as to what an anti-colonial architecture might entail, with a focus on museum display practices and what these imply about how they envision their purpose and relationships with their publics.


Art Style, Art & Culture International Magazine is an open-access, biannual, and peer-reviewed online magazine that aims to bundle cultural diversity. All values of cultures are shown in their varieties of art. Beyond the importance of the medium, form, and context in which art takes its characteristics, art is considered the significance of socio-cultural, historical, and market influence.



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