Museo Soumaya by FREE, Mexico City

By Roberto Lucchese
All Photographs: Adam Wiseman

Designed by FREE | Fernando Romero EnterprisE, Museo Soumaya opened to the public on March 29, 2011 after four years of development. The Museo Soumaya houses one of the most important art collections in Latin America with over 6,200 artworks and 60,000 square feet of exhibition space.
The Soumaya Museum is located in a former industrial zone dating from the 1940’s which today presents a very high commercial potential. The Soumaya Museum plays a key role in the reconversion of the area:  as a preeminent cultural program, it acts as an initiator in the transformation of the urban perception. Its avant-garde morphology and typology define a new paradigm in the history of Mexican and international architecture.

From the outside, the building is an organic and asymmetrical shape that is perceived differently by each visitor, while reflecting the diversity of the collection on the inside. Its heterogeneous collection is housed in a continuous exhibition space spread over six levels, representing approximately 60,000 ft². The building also includes an auditorium for 350 people, library, offices, a restaurant, a gift shop and a multi-purpose gathering lounge.

The shell of the building is constructed with 28 steel curved columns of different diameters, each with its own geometry and shape, offering the visitor a soft non-linear circulation all through the building. Located at each floor level, seven ring beams provide a system that braces the structure and guarantees its stability. The top floor is the most generous space of the museum; its roof is suspended from an impressive cantilever that allows natural daylight to flow in freely. In contrast, the building’s envelope is nearly opaque, offering little and scarce openings to the outside. This gesture can be interpreted as an intention to create a protected shelter for the art collection. The façade is made of hexagonal aluminum modules that optimize the preservation and durability of the entire building.

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