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10359 - George Kubler and the Prime Object in New Mexico

George Kubler has been considered by architectural historians to have defined the architecture of the New Mexico mission in his thesis of 1936 and dissertation of 1940. During his fieldwork, Kubler's thinking about New Mexico religious architecture was originally governed by his mentor Henri Focillon's diachronic, cyclic evolutionary theory of architectural development. The nature of the architecture of the churches of New Mexico, however, forced him to discard such an approach in his dissertation and to recast his assessment of the New Mexico churches in terms of a simple, deep cultural structure unrelated to chronology. In the process, he evolved the first outline of a theory of art history that was, indeed, characterized by synchronic, timeless structures, which he saw appearing over and over again as individual examples in the historical record. This seed of an idea eventually grew into the concepts described in The Shape of Time in 1962. Yet, continued research since 1972 indicates that Kubler's ideas about the architectural development of seventeenth-century New Mexico should be reconsidered. The building program in New Mexico was a series of elaborations on the simple, flat-roofed frontier church used in rural and frontier areas throughout the expansion of New Spain across the North American continent. Experimentation through the seventeenth century had as its goal the discovery of a satisfying esthetic of design that could be incorporated into these buildings while remaining within the constraints of the fabric and building methods of that place and time. It could be argued that the concept of the creation of a prime object and its subsequent repetition does describe the process revealed in New Mexico, but I contend that this is not an effective depiction of the development of New Mexican churches. Kubler's theory of architectural development as described in The Shape of Time does not apply in seventeenth-century New Mexico

Keywords: George Kubler, New Mexico, architectural history

Author: Oliveira Dias, Patricia (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil / Brasilien)
Co-Author: Ivey, James (University of New Mexico, Santa Fe New Mexico, Ud States of Am / USA)

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