Fay Jones School Hosts '500 Years and Counting' During Hispanic Heritage Month

Clockwise from top left: Benjamin Ibarra-Sevilla, Edna Ledesma, Juan Luis Burke, Gabriel Díaz Montemayor, James Rojas and Danielle Zoe Rivera.
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Clockwise from top left: Benjamin Ibarra-Sevilla, Edna Ledesma, Juan Luis Burke, Gabriel Díaz Montemayor, James Rojas and Danielle Zoe Rivera.

In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design will host the online panel conversation "500 Years and Counting" from 4-5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 13, via Zoom.

The "500 Years and Counting" panel conversation will explore the Hispanic legacy and agency in the built environment of the United States in the context of the year 2021 and the 500 years since the first European conquest in the mainland of the Americas: the fall of Aztec Tenochtitlan to the Spanish and their indigenous allies.

Registration for the conversation is available on Zoom.

Several additional events are being held across the U of A campus in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which spans from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Find more details on campus events on the U of A Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website.

Gabriel Díaz Montemayor, ASLA, is the assistant dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and an associate professor of landscape architecture in the Fay Jones School. He organized the Oct. 13 event, inviting five panelists who are experts in Latino/Hispanic forms of architecture, urbanism and landscape to participate.

"This year's National Hispanic Heritage Month is special as it coincides with the 500 years of the fall of Aztec Tenochtitlan — in year 1521 and in what today is Mexico City — to Spanish conquistadors and their indigenous allies," Díaz Montemayor said. "Five centuries of a new culture in the making, both European and indigenous to the Americas. A new built environment, being a cultural environment, has been in the shaping ever since. Adding to this is the imprint and ongoing transformation of the built environment by Hispanics in a different culture also expressed in the built environment, the Anglo-American."

Díaz Montemayor said that according to the recently published 2020 U.S. Census results, the Hispanic origin population in Arkansas accounted for 8.5 percent of the state's total population. In 2010, that same population was 6.4 percent of the total state population. Over the past 10 years, the population of Hispanic origin people in Arkansas has grown by 38.1 percent. Nationally, the rate of growth for the Hispanic origin population was 23 percent from 2010 to 2020.

"So, in Arkansas, the presence of Hispanic population is growing at a rate which is close to twice that of our nation," he said. "We all see the deep, significant and beneficial impacts of the Hispanic population in our built environment — from the construction industry, food industry, to restaurants, urban art and the reactivation of neighborhoods, main streets and urban districts through the demonstrated entrepreneurship of Hispanics, which is higher than the average of the U.S. population."

Nayelli Garcia, an architecture student and representative from the Fay Jones School's National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) chapter, will join Díaz Montemayor to moderate the Oct. 13 conversation.

The panelists’ expertise includes historic colonial structures and the transference of technology from Europe to the Americas, the history and theory of architecture and urbanism in the Americas and how it relates to Europe, cultural landscapes of immigrant populations with a focus on businesses and entrepreneurship, environmental justice and climate equity affecting low-income communities, and the ways in which Latinos transform public spaces, streets and the built environment.

"This panel conversation includes a diverse range of top expertise in architecture — both contemporary and historic — urbanism and landscapes, with an emphasis on social and environmental justice and participatory processes," he said. "I am certainly looking forward to breadth and depth as our guests discuss the legacy and agency of Hispanics in the built environment of the United States."

The panelists for this conversation are:

  • Benjamin Ibarra-Sevilla, an associate professor of architecture and historic preservation, Program Director Master Advanced Studies, and Program Coordinator Masters of Science in Historic Preservation at the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. He is an architect who graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and holds a degree in conservation and restoration of built heritage from the Excellence Program of the Carolina Foundation and the University of Alcalá de Henares, Spain. Ibarra-Sevilla's expertise involves case studies of ancient mason techniques, stereotomy, descriptive geometry and architectural geometry informed by form-resistant structures. His most recent research work focuses on the transmission of building technology from Europe to the Americas, exploring the constructive and geometric analysis of 16th-century ribbed vaults in Mexico. His work in masonry, geometry and stereotomy has received awards in Mexico and the United States and has been disseminated in various forums and journals of Europe, Latin America and North America. His most recent book, Mixtec Stonecutting Artistry, published by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, has received numerous awards, and his exhibition of the same name has been traveling for two years through eight cities of Mexico and the United States. He has participated in developing assistance for world heritage cities such as Zanzibar in Tanzania, Baku in Azerbaijan and the Batanes Islands in the Philippines.  
  • Edna Ledesma, an assistant professor in the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The corpus of her research, teaching and mentoring focuses on understanding the development of the smart, green and just 21st-century city, in particular the cultural landscapes of immigrant populations, micro-economies and their development of a new understanding of city place. One of her recent publications is the book chapter "Shaping Success: Exploring the Evolution of Latino Business on U.S.-Mexico Border States," which is co-authored with Cristina Cruz and included in Advancing U.S. Latino Entrepreneurship: A New National Economic Imperative, edited by Marlene Orozco, Alfonso Morales, Michael J. Pisani and Jerry I. Porras (Purdue University Press).
  • Juan Luis Burke, an assistant professor of architecture and architectural history and theory at the University of Maryland-College Park, where he teaches architecture studio and history and theory courses at the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Burke was originally trained as an architect with a specialization in the preservation of the built heritage in his native Mexico. During the first part of his career, he collaborated in the preservation of important landmarks in the city of Puebla de los Ángeles, Mexico. He has practiced architecture in Mexico, the United States and Sweden, in projects that include historical preservation, museum design, school design and private residences. He carried out his master’s and doctoral studies in History and Theory of Architecture at McGill University, earning his Ph.D. in 2017. His scholarly interests revolve around the history and theory of architecture and urbanism of the early modern to the modern periods in Mexico and Latin America, as well as its connections to Europe — in particular to Spain and Italy. He has published a number of articles, papers and edited chapters in Spanish and English, revolving around issues of the reception of architectural and urban theory in viceregal Mexico. He is the author of a book on the history of Puebla’s architecture and urban history during the viceregal period, Architecture and Urbanism in Viceregal Mexico: Puebla de los Ángeles, 16th to 18th Centuries (Routledge, 2021).
  • Danielle Zoe Rivera, an assistant professor in the Landscape Architecture + Environmental Planning Department at the University of California Berkeley. Rivera directs the Just Environments Lab, which seeks to center concerns of social justice and equity in discussions of the future of our environment. Her work examines environmental planning, urban design and community development. Within these spaces, she focuses on issues of environmental justice and climate equity affecting low-income communities. Her current work leverages community-based research and design methods to identify and address environmental injustices impacting low-income communities throughout South Texas, the Bay Area and Puerto Rico. She has conducted past research in Southeast Michigan, the Philadelphia region and the Denver region. She holds a doctorate in urban planning from the University of Michigan, a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Architecture from The Pennsylvania State University. 
  • James Rojas, who has for the past 30 years been observing, researching and documenting the ways in which Latinos are transforming streets to fit their non-motorized mobility needs. He has become one of the few nationally recognized experts on this topic and has written and lectured extensively on how culture and immigration are transforming Americans' spatial mobility patterns. He is the founder of the Latino Urban Forum, an advocacy group dedicated to increasing awareness of planning and design issues facing low-income Latinos. Rojas has lectured and facilitated workshops at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley, and in other schools and public forums. His lectures help Latinos erase any self-doubt they have about urban or transportation planning.

Michelle Parks, director of communications
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
479-575-4704, mparks17@uark.edu


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