The open museum in Cuernavaca of JSa

About an hour's drive from the capital is the Mexican city of Cuernavaca, which is known as the city of eternal spring because of its mild tropical climate and the abundance of flowering plants in its parks and gardens. This is where the dream of modernity can be realized: an intensive spatial connection between the outside and the inside is easily possible with average daytime temperatures between 13 and 30 degrees Celsius.

The architectural firm JSa has cleverly exploited the potential of the fusion of inside and outside. The new building of the Juan Soriano Art Museum in Cuernavaca, which was completed in 2018, formally occupies the exterior space. The sculpture garden, which has also been redesigned and is adorned with works of art by the museum's namesake, appears to be a continuation of the museum's premises. This effect is achieved by the open entrance level, without an actual façade. High beams, which become the façade on the upper floors, frame the ground floor as well as the views of the garden and the city.

Made of white exposed concrete in the clear design language of modernism, the solitaire can be reached from the street via generous stairways or via the public sculpture garden. The entirely white appearance from the street is characterized by a well-proportioned surface with a precisely placed opening through which an elegantly curved spiral staircase can be seen. Towards the public park, the floating effect of the elegant white concrete dress unfolds in interplay with the tropical plants of the garden. High vertical windows break the horizontality of the elongated structure with the continuous indented ground floor.

In order to allow a variety of exhibition conditions and visitor experiences, a series of spatial conditions were created and the building develops on three levels: a generous exhibition space in the basement, the freely accessible entrance level at the height of the public park, which can be used in different ways, and the large exhibition space with skylights on the upper floor. The open ground floor also functions as an urban open space that connects the historical centre of Cuernavaca, the sculpture garden and the direct neighbourhood. Visitors to the museum, as well as flaneurs, can experience, enliven and pass through the building without committing themselves to a visit to the exhibition. In the open gallery space the visitor encounters not only art, but also a welcome breeze, pleasant daylight and the wonderful scents of the garden.

Through the square window of the street façade, the architects guide the visitor's eye to the heterogeneous urban fabric of the surrounding area, which is typical for Mexico. Dedicated to urban integrity, the building's timeless, pure appearance provides a clear contrast to the location. And yet the modern expression is hardly surprising: Javier Sánchez, the lead architect and founder of the renowned architectural firm JSa, comes from a family that has shaped Mexico's modern cityscape for three generations.


This text was published on werk, bauen + wohnen.

© LEARNING FROM MEXICO 2019 by Laure Nashed

 Die Beiträge von «learningfrommexico» entstehen in Zusammenarbeit mit der Schweizer Architekturzeitschrift werk, bauen + wohnen.