Hispanic Baroque

Prof. Ricardo L. Castro

School of  Architecture | McGill University

Associate Director, M. Arch. Professional Program

School of Architecture
McGill University
Room 201, Macdonald Harrington Building
815 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec H3A 2K6

Tel:  (514) 398 6718 | e-mail


Baroque Presences: Limits, Systemic Thinking, and Mnemonics in the Development of Urban Topographies and Architectural Space in Hispanic America

My focus of research and field-work addresses the idea of mnemonic and systemic thinking, coupled with the concept of limit in the development of urban topographies and architectural space in Hispanic America. I have coined the phrase ”urban topography” in an attempts to enlarge the traditional notion of urban centre. It is a more comprehensive notion that includes the topography of the city plus its architecture and the surrounding environment, what in Spanish is commonly designated as “entorno” and it is directly related to the emergence of new thinking systems and the re-evaluation of the idea of limits in Europe during the 17th and 18th century, which had a pervasive influence in many fields of action from music and literature to landscape architecture and city building.

My current research to be expanded during a sabbatical leave, which has been granted for the year 2010-2011, focuses on the Spanish Fortified Urban Topographies in the Caribbean. In a more pragmatic and general context, Leibniz’s theories, manifesting themselves in Baroque pictorial expression and architectural space have also an echo in the 17th and 18th century Spanish urban fortifications, which appear as a result of a military transgression of established limits. Part of a new system that stretches beyond the city to include the territory, they are a direct response to the developments in artillery. In the Americas, the urban fortification systems, particularly concentrated along the Spanish trading route system in the Caribbean, followed the traditional military concepts utilized in Europe, developed by the French military architect/engineer Vauban. However, the geography and topography of the New World were significant challenges for the architects and engineers in charge of fortifying such system of trade routes giving way to idiosyncratic design variations, providing a sense of specificity, Baroque as it were, typical of the era and the locale.