The building known as La Esmeralda in historic downtown Mexico City houses Carlos Monsivais collection. The interior design of the new museum was entrusted to Higuera + Sanchez. The buildings architecture and the collection both are representative of Mexico Citys history, and embrace periods from the Colonial times to present day.
How could we find the basis for such diverse subjects inside equally different environments?
We began with the entrance, where the intention was to capture the spirit of an estanquillo (neighborhood grocery shop), in an abstract manner, at the same time seeking to make it the magic door that would take the visitor on a trip to the past.
Climbing the staircase, you reach the first floor, which is a large open space, richly adorned with colored moldings on the ceiling following the design of the cast iron. The furniture in the exposition must be silent, in face of a most eloquent architecture. It is white and formally independent of the environment. Nevertheless, it blends well with the warmth of the ornamental decoration, following soft curves it takes the visitor through the exhibit, where thematic niches are presented occasionally, like closed cells within the space.
Aesthetically, the second floor is almost the opposite, even though of identical dimensions. Here, you can breathe an air of the industrial era, in the simple presence of materials, like the rust iron plates riveted to the columns and the pavement-like polished cement slabs. In here, the furniture relates directly to the environment, linking the existing structure by means of large vertical axes where the exhibit panels are placed. These panels turn on their axes, giving lieu to a myriad of configurations and space divisions. In the mezzanine of this same floor, the smallest pieces of the collection are exhibited. Going back to the concept of the exhibit as part of the structure, thin columns were designed with a transparent, well-lighted section, to exhibit the miniatures. In this part, the elements were placed randomly, to emphasize the playful aspect introduced since the beginning, creating non-linear routes, where visitors can at the same time discover the spaces and the exhibit.
On the last floor, the flat roof of the building houses the coffee shop and the museum store. Here, the past meets the present. The coffee shop veranda has a splendid view of the campanile of the adjacent building exactly in front. The campanile has one of the original clocks that were sold at the Esmeralda clock store, so we used it as a concept for the last floor. Emerald Green is the base color for the finishing and furniture. The lack of original construction elements gave us freedom to use contemporary materials and designs, thus allowing to end the visit of the museum in the present day.
This project appeared on europaconcorsi home page slideshow dedicated to mexican architecture. The series was realized in cooperation with Derek Dellekamp. We thank him for his help, kindness and professional advice.