Dallas Center for Architecture Swank Traveling Fellowship

Page Employee Ricardo Muñoz has been awarded the 2014 Swank Traveling Fellowship administered by the Dallas Center for Architecture. As part of the fellowship, he will be traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico in October to study brick patterns and construction techniques created by the Zapotec culture (100 CE – 1500 CE).

The requirements for his proposal were to include past work relevant to the intended research and travel. As part of that portfolio, he included the Baylor Surgical Hospital at Fort Worth, a project that he has been deeply involved in by developing the exterior brick patterns and accurately drawing them, which was a tedious process. Click through the above gallery to see examples of his submission, and read the text below to see the summary of his proposal.

Congratulations, Ricardo!

Mitla The Art of Brickwork in the Oaxaca Valley
Forty kilometers from the city of Oaxaca, Mexico lies an archeological site of the Zapotec culture that was inhabited from 100 CE until the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s. The site is unique because it contains some of the most intricate stone work created in Mesoamerica by pre-Columbian societies. This stone work which has a direct relationship to the detailed articulation of modern day brick work. The stone work or grecas as they are known locally necessitates more careful analysis and scrutiny in order to learn from building techniques and aesthetic insights attained by the this culture and how it can applies to modern construction and design.

The grecas are created of individual carefully sculpted stone pieces that are set together in highly sophisticated patterns and are held together by their own weight. The study of this craft can lead to direct implications for the way 
masonry is constructed and designed today. The use of masonry construction is not only present at an almost global scale but should be a method that is promoted because of its sustainable attributes (locally sourced raw materials,
chemically harmless, local workforce employment for construction and reuse of bricks). The ability for masonry to be expressive and its ease of construction can be demonstrated in contemporary applications by well-respected architects such as Peter Zumthor, Gramazio & Kohler and SHoP Architects. 

The incredible intricacy of the stonework and intellectual effort necessary to construct Mitla’s beautiful grecas are worth detailed study and renewed appreciation.