In Mexico City, a Battle Over a Building and the Art in Its Shadow

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In Mexico City, a Battle Over a Building and the Art in Its Shadow
In the distance, Building H of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, seen from behind “Espacio Escultórico,” a circle of 64 pyramids / © Alicia Vera

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In Mexico City, a Battle Over a Building and the Art in Its Shadow
In the distance, Building H of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, seen from behind “Espacio Escultórico,” a circle of 64 pyramids / © Alicia Vera

It is a simple sculpture: 64 concrete pyramids that stand in a perfect circle around two-and-a-half acres of rippling, black volcanic rock.

Known as “Espacio Escultórico” (“Sculptural Space”), the sculpture was inaugurated in 1979 here on the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. It is considered one of the most important pieces of land art in Mexico, a tranquil oasis in a chaotic city. But the recent construction of a white eight-story building nearby has prompted a furious protest that pits the university’s needs against Mexico’s cultural heritage.

The campaign against the building, which looms over the 13-foot pyramids from less than a quarter-mile away, has drawn hundreds of artists, architects and intellectuals from Mexico and beyond. A change.org petition to protect the work has gathered more than 30,000 signatures.

Prominent cultural figures, including the writer Elena Poniatowska, have published letters in the press or posted video statements on Facebook defending the sculpture; about 300 students and faculty members of the university’s architecture school signed a letter to the head of the department in April calling for the building to be modified or demolished. […]

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