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Futuro Museo Xinaltli. Photo: Design Boom. Drawings © studio Viktor Sørless y Estudio Juiñi.
The future Xinaltli Museum. Photo: Design Boom. Drawings © studio Viktor Sørless y Estudio Juiñi.

A museum in the Mexican jungle that sprouts like a seed towards the sun

A space for people, art, and science. This is how “Xinatli,” the future 'Fitzcarraldo' of 21st-century museums, was conceived.

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When Mexican art collector Fernanda Raíz thought of a museum that would also act as a research center on biodiversity and the effects of climate change, sustainability became a must. 

But can 21st-century cultural architecture stop from being a showcase of power?

In the process, Raíz consulted the European studio of Viktor Sørless and the Juiñi, both dedicated to soil research as an innovative building material. The result is Xinatli, a future research museum in the very heart of the Mexican jungle that has ecology and art at its core. 

Xinaltli is based on the Nahua word 'xinachtli,' which describes when a seed germinates in the earth and grows until it reaches its complete metamorphosis. 

The museum — which will be located in a region of southern Mexico in the middle of the tropical jungle — is a reinvention of the stepped pyramid that is part of pre-Hispanic civilization architecture. 

However, this time, it is not intended to be a colossal symbol of human power and closeness to divinity, as traditionally used from the most ancient temples and cathedrals, but the highest point of this stepped pyramid is projected to the height of the treetops and blends into the environment as if it were just another element of nature. 

Both Raíz and the architecture team selected a 90-hectare area of cleared forest, which had previously been affected by illegal logging. To a large extent, the exhibition halls, art pavilions, and the scientist-run land institute that will house Xinaltli will be put at the service of the fight against climate change

Likewise, each of the complex's facilities is intended to explore the "pluriverse" of life within biodiversity and human communities and bring this knowledge into art and research based on a commitment to "the Other" — nature and those who live in harmony with it and fight for its preservation. 

"A museum of the 21st century should not be a showcase of power, but a place that defends an equity: in ecology, in art and society," said the Mexican collector.

In the building's construction, Studio Viktor Sørless plans to use ecological construction methods and will consist of soil and wood load-bearing elements, which means a breakthrough in the way of urbanizing "with" and not "against" the planet. 

The soil used will be refined following the knowledge of local artisans, and chukum resin and sisal fiber will, according to the study, increase the building's weather resistance and tensile strength, preparing to withstand the humid conditions of the rainforest. 

Rethinking urbanism and the growth of societies in "collaboration" with nature has become a pressing need — especially after a dark 2020 and its alarming records of deforestation in the jungles of Latin America.

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