Woman and Bird Cage: Centro Cultural Chapultepec

Rice University | Profesor Peter Waldman

Project date 1990

Honorable Mention As a final graduate project.

As a final graduate project, I chose a site between the National Auditorium in Mexico City and the first section of Chapultepec park. The program consists of giving permanent residence to the National School of Dance together with a new multifunction venue next to it, which could house, conventions, fairs or other cultural events. Both buildings are raised above a parking platform with monumental staircases to access them, in a solution similar to that one used for the renovation of the National Auditorium which was being planned at the time of this project. The School building is proposed in a long building running along Parque Lira Street. It experiments with different layers of transparency and in its section it draws upon the profile of a sleeping woman, alluding to the popular iconography of the Iztaccihuatl volcano. It’s sinuous geometry generates different performance spaces that are accessed from different levels. At the top, a roof terrace becomes a viewing platform for the city. Floor plates drop and become seating galleries, a strategy which is now more commonly used, but that at the time was very innovative.

The curved aspect of the design insinuates a bird in flight, free from the constraints represented in the other, more rectilinear, symmetrical and formal building, which represents the sitting warrior of the Popocatepetl Volcano, commenting on the patriarchal and macho imbued Mexican culture.

The auditorium building is conceived as a “bird-cage” like glass and steel building with the particularity that structurally the entire roof and curtain walls have an anti-sysmic sliding support based on an ancient structural system, used in the Oaxaca’s city of Mitla, where the roof sits on moveable rollers so that in an earthquake, the base moves while the top stands still. The auditorium seating is a type of scaffolding, which works as a shock absorber for the lateral movement of the curtain walls and provide for flexible seating arrangements depending on the use of the venue. On the exterior open public spaces overlap with covered ones. In the case of the dance school, the “head and hand of the woman” lie on an apparent cushion which serves on one side as an access to the subway and on the other as a sloping public playground. Two large, “grass like” blades rise to give support the building but also act as ventilation ducts for the underground infrastructure. In front of the large auditorium an exterior foyer is covered by the cantilevered projection of the interior roof, an as an umbrella it guards this space. This solution was also coincidentally used in the National Auditorium project later on. As the conclusion to my student years many of the issues raised in previous projects appear here once more, inhabitable infrastructure, narrative as a generator of form, contrast of curvilinear and rectilinear geometries, overlapping of exterior/interior and public/private spaces, mixed use buildings to enrich spatial experience. Another important aspect was the exploration of structural solutions through anthropomorphic observations.

Leading up to this project we discussed different typologies of public space: for political discourse and manifestation, for commercial interchange and for leisure and recreation. The space for transit was analyzed on its pedestrian issues, proposing certain missing links between this area of the city and other section of Chapultepec park.

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