Amparo Museum, Puebla, Mexico.
© Luis Gordoa Amparo Museum, Puebla, Mexico.

Earlier this month, TEN Arquitectos announced the re-opening of the Amparo Museum in Puebla, Mexico. Puebla, a city of 2.7 million people, is a landscape also inhabited by over 365 churches, where the local Amparo family accumulated a city block’s worth of colonial houses, and substantial art holdings. TEN Arquitectos won a 2007 competition to add new galleries to the Amparo Museum, which is contained within the original houses, and boasts a private collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts, Spanish Colonial art and furnishings, and modern pieces compiled by the Amparo family.

In a lecture at the National Building Museum last spring, Enrique Norten, Hon. FAIA, described working on the project as “making a city park out of the collection.” The reconfiguration of the museum provided Norten with the opportunity to invent contemporary spaces to house the contemporary collection.

“The whole exercise was about understanding the city of Puebla,” Norten said. “It was a challenge because we could not touch the buildings, and the whole site was completely built.” Given that historic preservation restrictions on the existing museum complex prevented changes to the original structures, the only possibility for expansion lay in the museum’s courtyards.

“If we used the courtyards as molds, and extracted that volume,” Norten explained, “we would create a situation where all of those pieces would become part of the collection of domes and towers in that landscape, but in a modern way.” Norten’s additions—several glass boxes above the aforementioned courtyards—accommodate the new contemporary galleries, as well as a lobby, shop, café, and auditorium, while also providing rooftop access to museum visitors.

“The whole idea is that people could utilize these tremendous platforms [e.g., the rooftops of the existing buildings] to view the city in a way that hadn’t been available before.”

For more details and images of the Amparo Museum, visit ARCHITECT's Project Gallery.

Full audio of Enrique Norten’s lecture is available for listening at the National Building Museum’s online archive.