By Eva Bjerring
The MUSEO AMPARO by neo-modernist TEN Arquitectos is the very delicate phase one of a much-needed update to one of the most important cultural centres in Mexico, the MUSEO AMPARO in Puebla. The renovation finished in January 2013.
The modernization includes a refurbishment of the vestibule filling the room with natural lightning, a new temporary exhibition space and a roof top terrace so gracefully constructed, that glass and overview of the historical city centre merge in a rarely seen refined and crisp transition.
Hitting international standard
Inaugurated in 1991 the MUSEO AMPARO holds a very impressive permanent collection that traces Mexico’s development over its history including priceless works of art.
Since its opening the museum has been situated in two colonial-era buildings from the 17th and 18th century and even though a pioneer in interactive multimedia, the Amparo Museum was everything but in the lead of international museum architecture.
High on history, but low on light and proper exhibition space, Enrique Norten, owner of TEN Arquitectos, tells and continues:
|The Amparo Museum is quite an important museum possessing one of the largest private pre-Hispanic art collections in Mexico. But its image had been the same for the past 20 years. So it was time to renovate it!|
|The point is to maintain the relationship between modern duality and history. The whole existing museography was retaken, and the collection that was not on display was recovered and incorporated in the building.|
The museum holds a permanent collection of 4,800 pre-Hispanic pieces, a permanent collection of baroque art and another of contemporary art including pieces from important artists such as Javier Marín, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Vicente Rojo, Manuel Felguérez and Sebastián. In addition to the galleries, there is an auditorium, library, bookstore, cafeteria and a rooftop terrace.
A vestibule lifeline
One of the biggest transformations has been to the vestibule, going from colonial darkness to 21th century light box, visually and literally ending in a transparent roof.
This intelligent design grip is the core and opening element in the museum’s tour, revitalizing the experience from arrival to end.
Mr. Norten explains:
|Before the renovation, the vestibule was dark and had no relation to the exhibition space. With the project we even out everything through the use of the vestibule, by unifying the spaces and providing more accessibility to the building, while most of the materials we used were meant to provide more light and transparency to the building.|
The vestibule provides access to the galleries, which house the temporary exhibitions as well as ensuring a natural flow to the terrace and cafeteria on the upper floor providing a magnificent view of the city skyline.
And the roof top terrace is a visit worth in itself. The new terrace clad in local marble and talavera, a characteristic hand-made craft from Puebla’s local artisans, unites the museum with the settings in more than one way.
Mr. Norten tells:
|The client, the Amparo Foundation, wanted to increase the Museum’s exhibit capacity and its square footage without destroying the old construction. With a limited site, the only option to grow was by re-using the existing patios and taking advantage of the 5th façade, the roof terrace.|
In this way the views from the roof terrace connect the museum to the city context, both in choice of material, references to local history and by access to an extraordinary view of Puebla’s old church domes, towers and landscapes. This unique view hasn’t been exploited previously in any other part of the city.
Even in bad weather the refined extension into the skyline leaves the visitor with a feel of close connection to the buzzing colonial hub.
One out of three
The following two phases of the project are scheduled to be completed during the second half of 2013 and will include the modernization of the exhibition halls and the museographic collection script of the permanent pre-Hispanic Art (13,800 sf) and Colonial Art (4,700 sf) exhibit, as well as the temporary exhibit galleries (19,900 sf).
At the end of the project, the museum will have expanded about 32,300 sf. Attendance is expected to increase 15% over the first two years while maintaining 8% over the following three.
The update of the Amparo Museum is a serious candidate to reassert the museum’s importance as cultural center and raise the national and international touristic interest in the city of Puebla.