León, Guanajuato, MEXICO

León, the largest city in the state of Guanajuato, and its commercial and industrial center, completed a major expansion of its convention center, the Poliforum, making it the largest in Mexico. In 2003, the state of Guanajuato, the civic and entrepreneurial leaders of León sought to complement the City’s commercial success with a cultural center. Pei Partnership Architects  prepared a master plan for the Center and was commissioned by the Fundación Cultural Guanajuato to design the Guanajuato State Library, one of five buildings in the center, which opened to the public in September 2006.

The Forum Cultural Guanajuato will include a 1,500-seat performing arts center, an art museum, and a new graduate-level art school. In addition to the library, the master plan provides for a significant commercial component, with a hotel, retail facilities, cinemas and restaurants. All of these elements will be arrayed around a series of plazas, ranging from grand civic gathering spaces to quiet, shaded patios.

The 9.6-hectare Cultural Center site borders on Adolfo Lopez Mateos Boulevard, the city’s major artery, and contains an unusually large number of mature specimen trees. Pei Partnership’s planning efforts have not only placed major emphasis on these trees, but on exterior spaces in general, recognizing that in León’s temperate mountain climate, the outdoors are inviting throughout the year.

Water features will be used in abundance throughout the Center to enliven some spaces and to achieve a romantic and calming atmosphere in others. A notably attractive local volcanic stone, cantera, has been used for major civic buildings for hundreds of years and will be used here to ensure the Center’s integration into the fabric of the city and to give it a quality that will be at once formal, welcoming, and familiar.