2022

MCHAP

Juan Soriano Cultural Center and Museum

JSa Arquitectura

Cuernavaca, Mexico

June 2018

PRIMARY AUTHOR

Javier Sánchez, Aisha Ballesteros

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Margain y Asociados, Lighteam, Genfor Landscaping, Iraiz Corona, Jorge González

CLIENT

Juan Soriano Cultural Center and Museum

PHOTOGRAPHER

Rafael Gamo, Jaime Navarro

OBJECTIVE

The space includes two galleries for temporary exhibitions, multi-use spaces, a library, workshops and a cafeteria distributed in a lush, 40,000-square-foot garden. The footprint of the pre-existing built structures has been used to respect the flora that includes amate, ceiba, cazahuate and guaje trees, at the same time honoring the apantle (aqueduct) flowing from a natural spring and crossing the property. The route defines the garden’s resulting abstraction by creating hierarchies for the paths, with layers of different sizes and materials. A series of pools help to freshen the tropical climate through their placement —as a roof of the exhibition cube— for passive heat regulation, and therefore include aquatic plants and fish from the same botanical convention.
 
The architecture heads in the same direction, as a work of public, tactile, transformable sculpture that can be appropriated. An open-doored space using exposed white concrete containers creates fabrics for bringing art and culture into contact with the city. Soriano’s sculptures act as spectators and lookouts, broadening the perspectives of the artwork and its exhibition narratives.

In code, with subtle hints and nods to the artist himself, the museum opens up niches, reveals textures, draws paths and marks boundaries, leaving open the possibility for any kind of cultural commotion. The interpretation and attachment to the site reveals the deciphered sensibility for architecture and its infiltrated surroundings. The museum as pretext and pathway to exalt the garden’s geometry; public sculpture as an initial state and reconciliation of form.

CONTEXT

Juan Soriano’s painting and sculptural work rooted itself in the public sphere through monumental sculptures. His forum —arranged to stimulate conversation— also hints at an obsession for doors and windows. His preponderance lies in the dissolving borders between public and private space, exposed areas and contents.
The everyday and aesthetic ideas behind his sculptures is implicit in the urban contribution that he made in public and private works of architecture.
 
These ideas formed the contours and foundations of the Juan Soriano Cultural Center and Museum (MMAC), an approach taken in two synchronized moments: public sculpture and collective space. The design shapes the syllogism of a garden in the museum, or a museum in a garden. Where does the museum end and the city begin? The cultural complex becomes a shortcut towards equality through the landscape, architecture and art. A sculptural garden, intertwined with concrete volumes, leafy trees and artistic provocations.
 
The architecture nods at the public aspect of the project and the artist’s wide-ranging vision. This is a museum that combines urban design and local connection. It makes landscape and threshold possible: the former connects two points to create a circuit by extrapolating the streets of Cuernavaca’s downtown streets toward the Amatitlán neighborhood in a diagonal that removes the usual museum walls; while the latter appears to be a narrative of a cultural center that encourages differences by using diagonals, frames, pathways, courtyards, passages, staircases, sculptures, reflecting pools and green spaces.

PERFORMANCE

Cuernavaca’s streets seem like alleyways, darkened by the shadows of the jumble of cables and rickety sidewalks. The voluptuous gardens where the city’s historical events have unfolded are hidden behind walls. Houses in this region of the world —like the one belonging to Hernán Cortés— are enclosed by high walls. The current violence in Cuernavaca has increased this tendency: walls are even higher and interior spaces even less accessible. The project’s architecture, with its permeable garden, makes an opening in the walled city.

As soon as the museum was inaugurated, visitors began pouring in: families, art enthusiasts, readers seeking refuge in the library, but most of all, people walking through the garden. Some arrive in groups and have lunch on the lawns. Others contemplatively sit on a bench facing one of the sculptures. At the Amatitlán market, on the day after the museum opened, stacks of flyers advertising the museum appeared at the many food stands, enabling the marketplace sellers to finally answer the questions they had been asked for four years: What exactly are they building over there? Is it a hotel or a residential building? Or is it a new cathedral?
 
In this new form of city making, pedestrians take precedence. The museum could become the motor of a city that is reinventing itself, by demonstrating that a cultural center can also be a passageway, a passageway can also be a garden, and a garden can be a place conducive to encounters with new objects, images, and stories.