Architecture professor to write book on influence of culture through architecture in Central America

Hayden Clark

With a $5,000 grant from the Office of the Vice President of Research, assistant professor of architecture Benjamin Ibarra Sevilla will write a book that explores the influence European colonists and indigenous cultures in Central America through architecture.

Ibarra Sevilla said his book will investigate how Spanish colonists used the native people to create European Gothic structures, such as churches.

“I am aiming to reveal some of the important aspects of the buildings in the context of history of construction [and] in the context of building systems and transference of technology,” Ibarra Sevilla said.

Associate architecture professor Michael Holleran said the buildings provide insight into the merging of European and indigenous cultures.

“What [Ibarra Sevilla] is able to do through the specifics of the architecture, through the durable, built record of what’s there, is to look very specifically at what was interaction of the cultures,” Holleran said. 

Ibarra Sevilla said he hopes readers appreciate and understand the significance of the people of that era and what the two different cultures were capable of doing together.      

“It’s important people recognize that those buildings used European technology that were built by indigenous people, who learned really, really quickly how to build these types of structures, which are similar to the Gothic appearance in Europe,” Ibarra Sevilla said.

Assistant architecture professor Sarah Lopez said the subject of Ibarra Sevilla’s book is one that has not previously been given much attention by researchers. 

“There’s very little primary research that’s been done on the architecture of Central America,” Lopez said. “…[The book will] fill in a lot of questions and gaps we have in our knowledge about architectural history at large”

Ibarra Sevilla said he wants readers to appreciate what the people of that time accomplished, specifically the native people of Central America.

“I want people to learn and value the work of the indigenous people in that period of time,” Ibarra Sevilla said.