Stereotomy is the science of cut solids and how their complex structures are assembled. Commonly used by art historians, architecture assistant professor Benjamin Ibarra-Sevilla used the process to understand how three churches were constructed in the Mixteca region of southern Mexico in the 16th century.
"The gothic vaults require drawings in order to define the underlying geometry of each of the ribs and in order to know the information necessary to carve pieces," writes Enrique Rabasa-Diaz, in a forward to the book about Ibarra's new exhibit "Mixtec Stonecutting Artisty," which opened in April at the gallery of the Centro Cultural San Pablo in Oaxaca City, Mexico. "But [In the 16th century] it was generally believed that in order to understand the particular procedures required to build a gothic vault, it was necessary to witness its construction." Easier said than done.
Half a millennium later, Ibarra-Sevilla relied on technology to help uncover the origin of stereotomy in Oaxaca and how the building technology was transmitted from Europe to Mexico. Using a 3D digital scanner, he mapped the interiors of San Pedro y San Pablo Teposcolula, Santo Domingo Yanhuitlánm and San Juan Bautista Coixtllahuaca, and then translated the data into physical 3D models printed in the College of Design Digifablab.
"The exhibition is anchored in the significance of the indigenous interpretation of occidental building construction principles," explained Ibarra-Sevilla. It will be on display through the end of June in Oaxaca, and then travel closer to home the summer 2013 when it goes on display in the Goldstein Museum of Design's HGA Gallery (August 24 - October 13, 2013).
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