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Why Travel? Like An Architect? – Coba

Why Travel? Like An Architect? – Coba, a lesson in itself.

A fresh coconut on our way to Coba, and the most delicious Aztec Soup with Pollo en mole enchaladas. At Rancho La Cachimba.

Architects travel to study Architecture. But it is far more than the study of buildings, or the “engineering”. It is the study of Civilization. How people lived, played, worshiped, and worked. It is the study of HOW buildings affect how we FEEL. The “feeling-of-place”, the feeling of Architecture, can only be discovered, in-person, by visiting significant places.

Join us in the next week as we explore the Mayan civilization in the Yucatan Peninsula, MX.

The reason people visit Coba. The climb to the top.

Our first visit, the Mayan City of Coba. The principal groups of buildings are situated near the lakes of Coba and Macanxoc. It has an important network of white roads of varying legs which criss cross across the Yucatan Peninsula connecting hundreds of miles of old cities.

These structures were built between 600 and 800 ad. The varied Stela (stone “tablets” with inscriptions carved on them recording dates, measurements, codices, and religion) found here are from the same period. The Stela only recorded the events of the ruling class.

At its peak, between 800 and 110ad., Coba had 55,000 inhabitants.


A Courtyard used for games. The goal was to get a ball through the hole on each side and score points. In the center is a skull in the ground. Wonder if it was a game to the death.

The classical architectural style of Coba resembles that of the people of Guatemala more than that of Northern Yucatan.

By the time of the post classic period, Coba had lost its Superior place in the Yucatan, while Tulum, Xcarat, and El Rey began to flourish.

coba map

Map of the Coba complex. We visited three of the excavated sites. See below.

Conjunct Pinturas

This grouping of buildings is from the last occupation of Coba. There’s a temple on the upper part who’s friez and lintel were richly painted on their interior side.

In front are small alters suggesting the ritual of the complex – there just happen to be 13 of them. I find that interesting!

Also in front of the pyramid is a structure that appears to have had a roof. They suspect it was made out of wood and thatch, which is why it no longer exist.


Temple that at one time had colored painted friez and lintel.

The room that had the roof is to the left. The gate is where there was an opening.

The 13 alters in front of the temple. Why 13?


The Stella is ornately carved on all four sides and has 313 hyroglyphics. The building group was built on a large hill, and the buildings, unlike others at Coba, are set rectilinear to each other.

There are 8 Stela and numerous other Alters associated with them. The large concentration of Stela here suggest this temple had an important Civic and Ceremonial use.

What the Archeologists see on this Stela

One of the Stela, in a niche, on one side of the pyramid temple.

What the Stela looks like to an Architect

Nohoch Mule

This group of structutes covers about 2,400 square meters and is built atop a natural hill. It has the tallest structure in Northern Yucatan at 42 M tall. The name of the building comes from the Mayan nohoch, meaning big, and mule, meaning mound.

The pyramid is made of seven bodies with rounded corners and two stairways on the southern side. The upper temple dates from 1100 ad.

In the niches of the facade you can see a descending God. The grand platform is the most voluminous structure in Coba and is unfinished. It is one of the few pyramids one can climb.


Carving of a God above the entry to the temple on top of the pyramid.

The proof we made it to the TOP.

By studying the pyramids we are reminded of the importance of a strong and stable base with a secure connection to the Earth. When you climb to the top and turn around to survey your accomplishment you feel like a God! Standing on top with a hundred friends all moving about reminds you that being inside of a tall building just feels more safe and secure than climbing on top of it! Part of you is glad you did it without considering the potential consequences, and another part of you wonders if you will get back down. Some of the stone on either side of the rope – was polished smooth from years of clothed butts ascending and decending. We were so glad it had not rained recently.

We carefully decended, this time using the rope. Rob scoffed at Lynn part way down “Don’t try to be a hero! Get a hold of that rope!”

Next up…. ….Chichen Itza and Ek Balam.

Interested in How YOU Can Do This?


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