A planned research museum in Mexico will sprout from rainforest soil as a reimagined stepped pyramid.
Founded by the Mexican art collector and environmental activist Fernanda Raíz, the museum will be located on the edge of southern Mexico’s tropical jungle. The structure, designed by Norwegian-German Studio Viktor Sørless and Mexican Estudio Juiñi, will include exhibition halls, art pavilions, and a scientist-run land institute that will focus its research on biodiversity and combating climate change.
Called Xinatli, the museum takes its name from the Nahuatl word “xinachtli,” which describes the moment a seed germinates in the soil. Its stated mission is to “utiliz[e] art and aesthetic perception, an ecologically oriented way of building, and a cultural engagement with the other to help preserve the permanence of all life on our planet.”
“Until now, museums have usually been a space where power is put on display,” said Raíz, who also runs an environmental foundation, in a press release. “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.”
The museum will be located in a 90-hectare (~2.5 acres) expanse of cleared forest, previously stripped bare by illegal logging. The area will be reforested in the coming years as part of the project. Through its facilities, the museum hopes to provide a “counterweight to sectoral perspectivism and the exhaustion of nature as a resource.”
For the construction, Sørless will use ecological methods that utilize soil and wood load-bearing elements in an approach geared towards building “with earth, not against it.”
Inspired by local traditional construction techniques, Chukum resin and sisal fiber will be used to increase the weather resistance and tensile strength of the structure, helping it cope with the tropical conditions of the rainforest. The land will also be refined according to the knowledge of local craftspeople, and instead of uprooting trees to use the wood for the framework, trees will be planted as “living supports” of the structure.
The design recalls the Mesoamerican stepped pyramids of the Olmecs, Maya, and Aztecs. However, the concept of the stepped pyramid has been reinterpreted to symbolically dissociate Xinatli from the power and hierarchy that these structures often symbolized.
“The step pyramid is a symbol of a class society, the split between the rich at the top and the poor at the bottom. Our design deconstructs this hierarchy,” Viktor Sørless explained in a statement.
To convey this message, the lowest and widest plinth of the pyramid was raised from the base to the center of the structure, leveled with the crowns of the tallest trees, to place visitors “eye-to-eye with nature.”
Though it represents a sustainable fusion between indigenous architecture and modern engineering, Xinatli was not designed to last forever.
“It needs to be looked after, otherwise, it will degrade,” Sørless said. “This element of transience acknowledges that life is a process of growing, perishing and becoming — and that we humans can make a conscious decision about how we treat our environment.”
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Placed on Russian “Wanted” List
Tolokonnikova has long been thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Vivan Sundaram, Veteran Indian Contemporary Artist, Dies at 79
Sundaram is celebrated for his multidisciplinary studio practice steeped in activism and political consciousness.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
What’s Iconoclastic About a Blackface Madonna?
Artist Tony Rave’s work comes to remind us that piety is not strictly White.
The Most Stirring Press Photographs of 2022
Photographs captured war-torn Ukraine, the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, and an Iranian woman defying the mandatory hijab law.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
NY Governor’s Proposed Budget Slashes Pandemic-Era Arts Funds
The cuts to the New York State Council on the Arts budget are attributed to the expiration of pandemic relief programs, but advocates say arts organizations need more support.
MoMA Apologizes for Kicking Out Black Artist From Installation
Museum security asked Heather Agyepong to leave the installation Black Power Naps, meant as a safe space for Black people, after a White visitor called her “aggressive.”
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
New York’s BIPOC-Led Arts Orgs Are Grossly Underfunded
Proposed cuts to arts funding across the state would hit entities of color the hardest.
New Directors/New Films Festival Takes an Experimental Turn
A host of documentaries exemplify ND/NF’s unconventional programming philosophy.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Memories So Fair and Bright
Kimetha Vanderveen’s paintings are about the interaction of materiality and light, the bond between the palpable and ephemeral world in which we live.
Artists Contemplate Sovereignty in Santa Fe
The Santa Fe Art Institute’s 2024 International Thematic Residency focuses on what sovereignty means for artists from across the world.