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especiales > Museo Guggenheim Guadalajara, Jalisco, México / TEN Arquitectos [27/02/06]

GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM GUADALAJARA, Guadalajara, Jalisco. Mexico 2004

The Site

The project is sited at a city’s edge that is defined not just by the gradation of urban densities, but by a natural environment that has a power and a beauty that is truly unique. The barranca extends 600m below the level of the city, creating a vertiginous edge that divides the urban from the natural. As a result, the proposal must become a celebration of the city and the barranca in a way that heightens the awareness of both. It is meant to be a place where the people of this city and the people of the world come to witness these two intensely different conditions: the vertical crevice of the barranca and the horizontal plateau of Guadalajara. For Guadalajara, this celebration is cultivated through the creation of a vertical element; a beacon; that is seen from the far-reaches of the city. This beacon signals presence and provides the space for the spectacular, both conditions defining this project as a destination for the people of Guadalajara and for the world.

As an already vital destination for the people of Guadalajara, the public park that sits adjacent to the project remains completely untouched. The site in its entirety is currently occupied by a public park which remains completely open to the public, as the floating tower of the proposal hovers only over the width of the Avenida de Independencia. The people of Guadalajara will inevitably maintain and even strengthen their connection to the natural edge of their city through this public park, and the addition of another urban plaza at the city’s edge.

> A narrative of the building and its relationship to the site:

From the far reaches of Guadalajara, the tower of the project is seen floating at the edge of the city; a lighthouse that provides the first indication of the barranca. As one begins to approach this beacon from the Avenida de Independencia, the volume appears to be sitting on the horizon line, terminating the avenue itself and acting as the physical edge of the city. As one moves closer to the building site, however, the avenue begins slope downward; carving into the earth. At the end of this carving, the tower hovers above, held aloft by a single structural bridge. From this vantage point, the tower above and the two walls of carved earth on each side create the last urban plaza for the city of Guadalajara and a framed view to the barranca beyond.

Beyond the plaza, an excavation cuts down through the earth and releases out onto a platform that extends horizontally above the void of the barranca. From the edge of the platform, an opportunity is given to look back towards the museum from the vantage point of its immense natural context. In this sense, an opportunity is presented to see the symbol of the city from the point of view of the barranca, an opportunity that is facilitated only by the project and its platform.

The Architecture

The architecture of the project is made up of six primary elements: the tower, the sunken gallery, the programmed bridge, the excavation, the platform, and the barranca itself.

The Tower: The Introduction of a Vertical Museum Typology

Through investigations of existing types of curatorial space, a flexibility of scale was embraced as a primary need for an institution of this type. The flexibility is embodied in a considerable variety of gallery scales that are distinctive vertically and horizontally. In essence, the project can be seen as a pile of different ‘floating’ museums, separated by complex interstitial spaces, wrapped in an overall vertical volume.

The museum tower is a volume that contains three typologies of gallery space: The classical gallery, the interstitial gallery, and the big-box gallery. Each of these volumetric typologies is derived from the simple geometry of the box, where formal exuberance is subdued in exchange for a subtly evolving context for display.

> Classical gallery

The classical galleries act as “positive” elements within the tower volume, floating in clusters of three or four and serving as the different gallery programs. For example, a group of three stacked classical volumes might serve as the “Latin American” gallery or the “Guggenheim Permanent Collection” gallery.

> Interstitial gallery

The space that is outside of the classical gallery volumes, but still within the façade system, is called the interstitial gallery. While the classical gallery volumes are more neutral in character, acting as pristine white boxes in which art is displayed; the interstitial gallery operates at a much different level. These spaces, which wrap around the classical galleries vertically throughout the tower volume, are intended to be environments that promote site-specific art and art of a much larger scale, as well as spaces of encounter, observatories, lounges or cafes.

> Big-box gallery

At the top and the bottom of the tower, two “big-box” galleries have a distinctive spatial and material quality that gestures more toward the industrial than the classical gallery interiors, and serve as spaces for art that might necessitate very large-scale interior volume. The upper big-box gallery serves as a punctuation to the tower, denying the horizontal view and opening up vertically to the sky.

The introduction of a vertical museum typology in the Guggenheim Guadalajara allows for multiple narrative pathways to operate simultaneously within the experience of the project instead of typical linear narratives that are inherent in horizontally-configured museums. For example, there are numerous ways to proceed from one space to the next in the tower: a single gallery cluster can be chosen and accessed via the elevators; the interstitial platforms may be accessed via the elevators or the outer circulation spiral; the classical galleries may be accessed linearly from one to the next using the inner most circulation system; or the entire gallery trajectory can be ignored entirely, using either the elevators or the outer circulation spiral simply as a viewing platform from which to experience the project’s surrounding context. These concurrent scenarios in combination create an experience that is non-linear, and therefore unique, within the existing context of museum typologies.

The circulation in the tower is divided in to three primary conditions: The continuous and linear gallery to gallery circulation path; the public elevators; and the outer circulation spiral that connects all of the interstitial spaces.

> Linear gallery to gallery circulation

This circulation is achieved through a system of escalators that allows access to all of the gallery spaces within the tower. This system facilitates a more linear experiential narrative, where a visitor can proceed directly from one gallery space to the next, without having to fracture the curatorial continuity within a given exhibition; i.e., while viewing a single exhibition, one has the opportunity to see only that exhibition continuously from one space to the next, without having to move through another non-related display space.

> The public elevators

These elevators are attached to the east exterior surface of the tower, and because of their location they provide views to the city of Guadalajara and to the barranca. They move from the entrance hall, which is embedded in the earth on the east side of the urban plaza under the tower, to all of the interstitial platforms that separate the gallery clusters. Upon entering the entrance hall, one can choose to move directly to a chosen gallery or exhibition without the need to proceed linearly through the entire space of the tower.

> The outer circulation spiral

This circulation system occupies the space in-between the two layers of the outer façade system, creating a sense of exteriority while still being protected by the outermost façade surface. This pathway connects the interstitial platforms, wrapping around the tower on all sides before arriving again at the next platform. The most vertiginous space within the tower, this zone is a critical point of view from which one can experience the intense connection with the barranca and the city: While moving around the tower, the view shifts from the barranca to the city and back again, binding the two experiences together.

The Sunken Exhibition Hall

The exhibition hall primarily allows for the display of larger scale horizontal art work associated with the museum. However, this space may operate from time to time as an autonomous gallery, separate from the curatorial needs of the tower. In this capacity, it becomes an extremely flexible portion of the overall program, as it can function as large-scale gathering space or a context for secondary collections separate from those displayed elsewhere in the museum. The exhibition hall also carries on a very unique dialogue with the project’s natural context, being embedded within the earth for much of its length and breaking the surface as a large glass-enclosed cantilever at its eastern edge.

The Program Bridge

The Guggenheim’s bridge of program allows the disparate elements of the architecture to carry on a dialogue with the public park, the urban plaza, and the barranca. The bridge spans the excavation above the urban plaza, acting as a structural support for the museum tower. The bridge helps to animate the plaza below with the intense programmatic activity embedded within it, including larger portions of the museum’s educational programs and the museum’s primary restaurant. The bridge also acts as a porous gateway between the public park, the barranca’s edge, and the tower’s program itself.

The Excavation

The Guggenheim Guadalajara sits at the edge of the city, in essence offering a termination point for the Avenida de Independencia at the Barranca itself. As the avenue reaches the area of the site, it begins to carve downward into the earth. As the carving reaches its lowest point, it flattens out to create an urban plaza; the last civic space of the city along the avenue. Supported by a programmed bridge, the tower hovers above this public place with its entry to the east, nestled in the earth. An even deeper excavation presents itself at the northern-most portion of the plaza in the form of a stairway carving itself down into the darkness of a single linear hole. This stairway is an access point to the barranca and to the viewing platform beyond.

The Viewing Platform

The platform offers the opportunity to continue the avenue into the context of the barranca, allowing the city to further merge with its natural edge. It extends horizontally above the barranca, where from its edge an opportunity is given to look back towards the tower from the vantage point of its immense natural context. The platform also offers the opportunity to experience a primary context for the display of art: the barranca. From different areas of the platform, a visitor can scan the barranca’s edge in search of artist interventions, which becomes a very large natural gallery itself.


Project data:

Project Title: Guggenheim Museum Guadalajara

Location: Barranca de Huentitan, Guadalajara, Jalisco. Mexico.

Architect: Taller de Enrique Norten Arquitectos, SC (TEN Arquitectos)

Project Team: Enrique Norten, Tim Dumbleton, Dieter Schoellnberger, David Campos, Johan van Lierop, Alex Miller, Zoe Small, Sonia Gomez, Miguel Ríos, Fausto Alvarado, Daniel Ríos

Structural Engineer: Guy Nordenson Associates

M/E/P: Arup Engineers

Landscape Architect: James Corner -Field Operations

Museum Design: Julian Zugazagoitia

Year of Design: 2004-In Process

Area (approx.): 25, 600 m2


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