The National Biodiversity Pavilion in Mexico City is a museum, research, and education center located in the National Autonomous University. It was created as a building for the archives of the Institute of Biology and collections of mammals, reptiles, fish, and birds, where people can get acquainted with these collections.
The project was developed by local architects Fernanda Ahumada and studio FR-EE. They considered the round shape of the building as a version of the “tree of life” – the pavilion should illustrate the interconnection of all living things. The Tree of life is a common metaphor used by scientists to refer to relationships between species. Molecular biologists often use this tool to organize information and knowledge, which is why architects metaphorically embodied this idea in a building.
The Institute of Biology was built according to a radial plan – the floors rise up as if in a circle. The central staircase further streamlines the interior of the building and is a double helix of DNA. “Our staircase is the center of the museum and is meant to represent a shared connection with all living things on earth,” the studio commented.
Dynamic cladding follows the lines of the building. The “wave” of a thousand aluminum parts is designed to both partially illuminate the interior, and at the same time hide the glass facade where light is not needed. The 30 x 20 cm aluminum panels react to weather conditions by moving with the wind. The Living Façade is a reminder of the “permanence and importance” of biodiversity.
Research facilities, laboratories, and public spaces are located on the outermost ring, allowing greater access to natural light and ventilation, as well as views of the surrounding volcanic landscape. From the first floor of the building, where floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic views. There are public places – a library, a gift shop, and a cafeteria.
The other floors housed the four main collections of species. The foundation of the building was built from kanter, a local volcanic stone formed as a result of the eruption of the Kstile volcano in the 4th century.
The institute’s four collections are stored in specially designed “high-density storage” shelving on metal rails, mounted in an inner ring surrounding the stairs. Due to light sensitivity, the samples from the research center were placed away from the transparent façade.
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