A new sort of public engagement institute is emerging in Guadalajara, Mexico under the working title of the Museo de Ciencias Ambientales. The new center is aimed to engage the growing young, urbanite population of Mexico’s second largest city on questions of sustainability and the relationship between their city and the natural world around it. Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco State, is the second largest city in Mexico and a significant economic powerhouse second only to Chicago in the whole of North America. With a population exceeding 4 million Guadalajara, as with many emerging cities, faces considerable questions of sustainability and environmental health with significant pressures on water and food security and environmental degradation.
The new facility is being developed by the University of Guadalajara and is championed by Professor Eduardo Santana-Castellón who is world renowned for his work as an ‘institution builder’. Prof Santana-Castellón is a research ecologist who was part of the founding group of the Sierra de Manantlan Biosphere Reserve, the first federal biosphere reserve in Western Mexico with a bio-cultural approach to conservation. He also consolidated the Las Joyas Research Station, where he runs his long-term cloud forest bird monitoring project, which is the oldest terrestrial bird banding program in Mexico. He has significant experience of working on environmental questions such as the management of water resources with communities and has served with Jalisco State Council for Science and Technology in Autlan as Chair of the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources.
The new MCA project is intended to open in 2015. It has appointed New York based architects Snohetta on the building design working with Museological design groups Thinc (NY) and MET Studio Design (Lond, UK) who are developing the exhibition and engagement activities in the main permanent galleries. MET Studio is working on designs for three out of the six galleries for the 14,000 sq m center as well as advising on aspects of the external surroundings. As MET Studio Design Director Peter Karn says, ‘The audience for the project is very much the young people of the region who will inherit the results of today’s and tomorrow’s environmental decisions and who will be encouraged to engage with these important issues. Our design very much embraces this by incorporating a contemporary interpretation of indigenous styles and bringing a social aspect to the gallery spaces and interactives.’ The MET Studio-designed galleries explore people and sustainability, and the consultancy is working with former head of exhibit and innovation and special projects at London’s Natural History Museum Bob Bloomfield to develop these themes. MET Studio says, ‘The project aims to help people explore, understand and engage with the interconnectedness of the city with the surrounding environment, on which it depends for its resources and, ultimately, its survival.’