Event Series: Nationalism

Please join CGS in welcoming Dr. Benjamin Bross for his lecture on April 12th, at 12PM at the International and Area Studies Library, Room 309, and on Zoom.

Description: This lecture examines one of Latin America’s most important and symbolic spaces: Mexico City’s Zócalo. The lecture begins by posing questions about how the identity of a place emerges, how it evolves and why spatial identities are dynamic.  To answer these questions, Bross weaves together historic events and corresponding morphological changes in the urban environment of a specific place, the Zócalo (Plaza de la Constitución), to explain the emergence and evolution of Mexican spatial identities over time.

Starting from the pre-Hispanic period to the present day, the lecture will illustrate how the Zócalo reveals a spatial production that embodies a larger socio-cultural zeitgeist. By focusing on the history of changes in spatial production – what Henri Lefebvre calls society’s "secretions" – Bross traces how cultural, social, economic, and political forces shaped the Zócalo’s spatial identity and, in turn, how the Zócalo shaped and fostered new identities in return. It will be a fascinating read for architectural and urban historians investigating Latin America.

Bio: Benjamin A. Bross PhD., Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, grew up in Mexico in a multicultural environment. His research focuses on how spatial production processes embody place-based sociocultural identity. He has published articles ranging from spatial typology, and essentialism, to challenges posed by globalization. His first book, Mexico City’s Zócalo: A History of a Constructed Spatial Identity (Routledge, UK 2021) examines the evolution of Mexico City’s most important public realm space. He is currently writing Placemaking as a Holistic Sustainability Strategy: A Case Study of Baja California Sur’s Mining Towns (forthcoming, Routledge, UK 2023) which demonstrates the importance of place-based phenomenology as a sustainability strategy. In March of 2023, Benjamin was named by CAORC and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) an alternate Research Fellow. In 2022, he was awarded the SAH’s Scott Opler and Common Ground Emergent Scholar Awards, as well as being named a 2022-2023 Levenick Fellow by the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Bross, a California-licensed architect, has worked professionally for over 25 years. Overall, he has been involved directly in the design, construction, and development of over 75 projects in eight countries across North America, South America, and Europe. Benjamin holds a PhD. in History with Highest Honors from the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City, Mexico; a Master in Urban Design from UC Berkeley’s CED; a Master in Architecture from Harvard’s GSD, where he was a Graduate Student Associate at Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies; and a B.A. in Architecture from the CED.