Jalisco State Library: Guadalajara, Mexico

As the city of Guadalajara seeks to emerge as a new cultural capital in Latin America, it must mediate the extreme polarization of conditions that characterizes modern Mexico. The brief for the Jalisco State library embodies a paradox that is emblematic of these extremities of circumstance: while the library must become an important center for international intellectual inquiry, it also will serve as a beacon to illuminate local conditions of illiteracy. The Library forms both a vibrant public threshold for the Centro Cultural Universitario and a monument to the object of the book. The repository of the book is dramatically lifted from the ground, offering a new public space that is simultaneously a stage for public events, a rich landscape terrain and water garden, and a space for individual pause: to read, relax, reflect, refract...or simply take a nap…and dream. Public event spaces including the gallery, theatres and main library entrance emerge from within this terraced public garden: the Garden of Letters. The topography of this space connects and mediates between the street and the Plaza of the Centro Cultural.

Upon entering, one encounters a surprising space of orientation that is both rational and magical. Information, Circulation Desk and Orientation Theatre are condensed to form a hub of activity flanking the large open hall of the Browsing Collection. Moving into the double height space, the visitor will feel, as Borges phrased it in his The Maker, "the pull of the books like a physical force." She is invited to travel up a sloped landscape formed by the browsing stacks arranged like a theatre, a Mount Parnassus, a Tower of Babel. Walking becomes browsing as the visitor slows down and begins to taste the manifold pleasure of the book, of books. At the apex, of the Mezzanine, the visitor can gaze out over the Centro Cultural Universitario and the City, across this terrain of books to the hall below, or up to the larger theatre of the Hall of the Book atrium formed by the main collection of the library.

From the exterior the library presents itself with the simple and iconic form of the closed book. Upon first engagement, the sequence of spaces unfolds like a book, revealing an astonishing theatre of knowledge and memory.

At the heart of the garden is a tall courtyard, a void connected to the sky above and animated by a wall of water descending the full height of the Library. This threshold space structures the main entrance sequence into the Library, elevated passage by bridge to the Plaza, and the internal organization and circulation of the Main Library above. Its falling waters create both an intriguing play of light and shadow and a unique acoustic environment that promises to provide first time visitors and daily patrons alike with a memorable arrival experience of having entered a new world of wonder. Long vistas to the space of the Plaza accompany glimpses up to the main collections above - a transformative experience and invitation to engage in the social possibilities of the Centro Cultural, of the rich universe contained within a single book.


Team member role Geoffrey Thün, Kathy Velikov, Jose Uribe, Mauro Carena