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Vasconcelos Library

The Vasconcelos Library is the central node of the national network of public libraries in Mexico. Its name was taken from the Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos, also known as “cultural caudillo” for his great influence during the Mexican Revolution in which he advocated for a nation with an interracial identity and a spiritual coherence he called the “cosmic race”. The Vasconcelos mega-library designed by Mexican architect Alberto Kalach and his collaborators, holds more than 600 thousand books, a botanical garden, an auditorium, several reading rooms and facilities catered to children, the elderly and the visually impaired.

The trapezoidal façade of the building evokes a sense of rigidity, contrasting with an interior that consists of modular floating platforms. The modular design of the shelves gives a flexibility to the space and allows the collection to increase up to a maximum of 2 million items. The design is composed of steel, concrete and glass and uses a plethora of natural lighting to create a sense of openness and connection to the outside. Aside from its monumental scale and innovative design, one of the most outstanding characteristics of this architectural project is its capacity to enable dialogues between the visitors and the built environment. The Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco contributes to this interface between user and space in the piece commissioned to him by the architectural team. Orozco rearranged and transformed the bone structure of a gray whale into a permanent installation painted with graphite and hung from the ceiling of the main atrium. The piece was titled “Mobile Matrix” and quickly became a recognizable symbol of the library.

In response to the previous underutilization of the site, the Vasconcelos project attempted to provide the necessary cultural infrastructure that would boost urban resurgence and revert the erosion of the social fabric in the area. The botanical garden is a key component of the design that acts as an ode to ecological regeneration. With over 60,000 species endemic to Mexico, the garden complements the body of knowledge contained in the library’s book collection. Moreover, the Library provides a calm and shaded atmosphere, operating as a place of repose from the dense urban context of the library.

Project name Biblioteca José Vasconcelos
Period 2006
Author Alberto Kalach, Juan Palomarr Verea
Contributor Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes
Location Eje 1 Norte Mosqueta S/N, Buenavista, 06350 Cuauhtemoc, CDMX