My name is Katherine Dombek. I am a 4th year architecture student and I just returned from a semester abroad in Mexico. For three weeks, I got the opportunity to travel through colonial cities in Mexico and pre-Columbian ruins in Mexico and Guatemala. During this time I got to study and experience such things as the complex urban fabric and culture of Guanajuato, the variations of the unique open-air chapel typology seen throughout Mexico in the “Age of the Convento” and the awe-inspiring Mayan city of Tikal. My fellow students and I documented our travels through meticulous pen and ink drawings in a continuous accordion sketchbook practicing crafting a composition and learning techniques for this new media. The finished drawings are 9” x 400” compositions (however some are longer)–the products of literally hundreds of hours of drawing. When we returned to the Mexico City studio, we used the skills we had learned and information we had gathered to create a new urban proposal for a major street near the zocalo (the main public square or plaza for a colonial Mexican city). This project was not about traffic engineering but rather how to use form to create solid-void relationships along this street that would reinforce its vitality within the historic district and improve the quality and organization of public space and systems. Working together with Mexican teachers and architects, we developed a scheme that would accommodate a greater density and provide more public space with more amenities. This was an extremely profitable study aboard semester that helped me gain real experience in urban planning and practice with answering cultural and environmental questions while working within design.
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