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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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U research inspires Aztec exhibit in British Museum

By Chris Mumford

Anyone thinking of traveling to Mexico City for a tour of Aztec culture might want to consider rerouting to London instead.

An exhibit opening Thursday in the British Museum will feature a model of Aztec architecture of unprecedented detail that is based on the pioneering computer renderings of U architecture professor Antonio Serrato-Combe.

The model at the heart of the exhibit is a re-creation of the Aztec Templo Mayor Precinct, an Aztec temple and its surrounding area that was the epicenter of ceremonial life under Emperor Montezuma II and a key to understanding the ancient culture’s religion. The exhibit is largely based on two decades of Serrato-Combe’s research and his 2002 book, The Aztec Templo Mayor: A Visualization, which contained groundbreaking digital realizations of the site.

“(Serrato-Combe) is known all over the world for his digital work as it relates to architecture,” said Brad Baird, development officer for the college of architecture and planning.

Serrato-Combe used data collected from a variety of primary sources, including onsite research in the Aztec culture’s capital, modern-day Mexico City and Mesoamerican manuscripts, to piece together Templo Mayor.

The digital renderings and the new model they inspired brings scholars closer than ever to a complete re-creation of Aztec architecture, though they might not necessarily be perfect.

“The archaeological data only gets you so far,” Baird said, explaining that Serrato-Combe had to fill in the blanks in the archaeological and historical records with extrapolations informed by his background in architecture.

A unique aspect of Aztec culture that Templo Mayor exemplifies, Serrato-Combe said, was its view of the arts as fluid, as they channeled pottery, architecture, wall and sand paintings, amulets and costume into a single expression.

Serrato-Combe said he shares his excitement with students in his architecture courses by showing them how to maximize digital tools to make the academic experience more rewarding.

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