Mexico is known for its Spanish Colonial architecture. After Spain conquered the Aztec Empire in the 16th century, colonists brought structural design inspired by their churches and Mediterranean and Moorish influence to the Americas. As a result, the most popular types of residential buildings in today's Mexico are Spanish villas and Mission-style homes, found predominantly in cities like Puebla, Querétaro and Zacatecas, followed closely by modern structures in larger cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara. They're not unlike homes found throughout the southwestern United States.
Drawing from Mediterranean architecture, traditional Spanish Colonial homes feature thick, light-colored stucco walls and red tile roofs. Stucco is ideal for hot climates because it absorbs heat during the day and gently releases it into the home at night when temperatures drop. The material is a popular choice for both modern design homes and those modeled after Spanish missions too.
Modern Mexican houses often use adobe, a material made of clay, water and other natural ingredients, instead of stucco. These homes may be constructed of brick, then coated with a thin layer of adobe that's painted or whitewashed, providing a smooth, uniform exterior. Adobe houses typically have small windows which help maintain a cool interior, and often incorporate wood floors and flat roofs—warm, dry climates don't need steep roofs that allow for snow melt. Spanish villas sometimes incorporate adobe as well.
Cinder block, a lightweight brick made of concrete and cinders, stands in for adobe in many newer homes, creating an industrial look that's popular in Mexico's urban areas. These houses usually have clean, modern lines but may still include a traditional Spanish tile roof.
Reinforced concrete is an often-used building technique in Mexico because it offers added protection during earthquakes. Also called confined masonry, it involves builders making a frame with poured concrete then filling it in with cinder blocks or other concrete bricks. Newer concrete homes often have reinforced concrete roofs, which may be finished with red tiles, whereas in the U.S. houses with concrete walls typically still have roofs made of wooden rafters and plywood.
Decorating the outside of one's home is common in Mexico, and the country's history of colorful art is sometimes reflected in homeowners' penchant for vibrant exterior paint colors and decorations. Spanish Colonial homes feature small windows shielded with iron gates rather than glass to encourage airflow, while Mission-style houses stand out with intricate wood carvings, quatrefoil windows and square bell towers.