The Ruins of Copan: Learning from the Mayas

The Ancient Ceremonial Center at Copan
The Ball Court
Near the town of Copan Ruinas is the ancient Mayan city, called Copan by the Spanish, and Xukpi (Corner Bundle) by the Mayans, who built it.

This metropolitan area flourished from 200 to 850 CE, until it was mysteriously abandoned. Above is the ball court in the ceremonial center of the city. The purpose of this center was both political: to inspire fear and obedience from the common people; and religious: to intercede with the gods for the preservation of the city. While there were human sacrifices here, mostly animals were offered to the gods, similar to ancient Greece. (And no human sacrifices were performed on top of pyramid temples --those were the Aztecs. Pay attention, Mel Gibson!)

Two Guacamayas
From a design perspective, the continuation of the Mayan and other indigenous cultures in modern Latin American architecture is most interesting. The Mayan pyramids and palaces were constructed from limestone blocks and mortar, similar to the concrete blocks used today. The Mayan stuccoed ceilings, floors and walls, which is also common practice today.

But most interesting is their use of color.

Color has long been the trademark of Latin American architecture, as in the work of Luis Barrigan and other architects. The Mayan's favorite bird, the Guacamaya, or Macaw in English, is clearly reflected in the colors they loved. Red is for the blood, which represents life; blue is for the sky; and green is for the forest. For the Mayans this bird was the connection between heaven and earth, a good inspiration for any design in Honduras.
Indoor Pool at the Gilardi House
by Luis Barragan


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