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Centro para la Cultura y las Artes de la Ribera.

Alejandro Guerrero | Andrea Soto | ATELIER ARS

Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico



Alejandro Guerrero Gutiérrez (Co-director), Andrea Soto Morfín (Co-director)


SIOP | Secretaría de Infraestructura y Obra Pública del Estado de Jalisco (Builder)


Lourdes Ariadna González Pérez | Jalisco Ministry of Culture


César Alejandro Béjar Anaya | César Béjar Studio


The project is an intervention where preexisting structures were rehabilitated and new ones added. The starting point was the recovery of an auditorium with a portico covered by brick artisanal vaults that we recognized as the most valuable preexistence in architectural terms. So, we decided the rest of the buildings would be built with traditional clay elements, using different construction systems to produce a sense of unity. Although none of those pre-existing buildings had heritage value, we recovered, re-structured, and re-cladded to integrate them into the new complex with new buildings and landscape elements to produce the idea of a cultural public enclosure. They hybrid nature of the project made us reflect on the opportunity to foster traditional techniques in a contemporary architecture.
The entrance new building was solved in section with a brick vault at the ground level to convey the idea of threshold to the whole Center. It houses a library in the upper floor, illuminating with a sawtooth roof a multipurpose space, where children’s activities and book presentations are held. It was built entirely with load-bearing brick walls demonstrating the possibilities of artisanal work even for public commissions.
The services new building, was placed to produce a limit to the east and contains an open amphitheater, music and dance rooms. It was cladded with traditional ceramic elements evoking a “tejamanil”, a typical construction system of local vernacular traditions. Its longitudinal development takes advantage of the natural topography to transform from a one-level building to a two-level story.


The project requested by the Jalisco Ministry of Culture, belongs to a program known as “Cardinal Culture”, an effort to decentralize culture and disseminate it in different regions, through the creation of public cultural spaces. Our project is located in Chapala, the biggest lake in Mexico, with the most important foreigner’s settlement in the country.
Our work as architects has been defined by 3 main themes: the role of history in the project, the relationship between architecture and landscape, and the attention to human aspects through the inclusion of rituals and myths. For that reason, we wanted our project to communicate the site’s history and the myths of the Wixárika culture, which has its most important ceremonial center in Lake Chapala.
In the Paleozoic era, the lake was part of a fjord from the Pacific Ocean. Due to volcanic activity, the topographic system known as the Trans Mexican Volcanic belt was born, dividing that great inland sea being delimited by topographic eminences and producing an ecosystem where the lake became fundamental for the founding cultures. Science and myth relate to the same story, since the history of these pre-Hispanic cultures allude to those processes of topographic and aquifer formation. Its legends tell us about the emergence of the lake through a drying process, when the goddess Nakawé sank her walking stick into the seabed, causing the water to drop, and producing the formation of an islet -Scorpion’s Island- where the most important sanctuary of the Wixárika culture is located.


Originally the complex operated on loan managed mainly by the foreign community. After its transformation into a new cultural venue, and with the introduction of new programming, new and wider public audiences were reached. Since the official opening to the public, the center has provided conditions for national and international artistic performances, temporary residencies, and many other events, fostering the integration of both foreigners and locals, giving the possibility to new regional encounters.
The construction of the new cultural center was interpreted by us as a great opportunity to produce new public space for the region. So, we decided to produce it as a set of separated buildings with squares, alleys and gardens that the community can visit even if they are not attending any performance. To communicate part of the founding myths through landscape, we have arranged 3 moments. The first is a pond placed at the entrance of the complex, where two planters containing endemic aquatic vegetation, evokes the two existing islands in the lake. The second moment is a pond trapped between stone planters as a trompe l'oeil, containing a water vortex that metaphorically recalls the mythological drying process. The third moment is a stone promontory that contains a rain fig tree, as the altar that can be found at the main sanctuary located in Scorpion’s Island. By means of its materiality, the cultural center has contributed to preserving the artisanal knowledge alive in the region, witnessing the enormous nobleness and expressive capacity of the handmade brick.

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