This project for the renowned contemporary art gallery OMR, located at Calle Cordoba 100 in Mexico City´s Colonia Roma neighborhood, consists of the comprehensive conversion of a mid-century brutalist building in a generous exhibition space, as well as a one story vertical new-build extension in order to accommodate complimentary back-of-house functions.
After 30 years in a turn-of-the-century Porfirian villa, the renowned contemporary art gallery OMR decided to move to a new location. The chosen site was an existing brutalist building called Sala Margolin, originally dedicated to the sale of records and books. The building's design consisted of a single large space covered by a coffered concrete roof slab under which the different sections of the store were organized by subtle changes in floor level. The roof was supported around the perimeter and by four slender concrete columns framing a central skylight, the most important light source for the space.
The design strategy was to preserve the existing building as much as possible. A central bathroom core was demolished and some interior details toned down so as to bring out the character of the building and transform it into a generous exhibition space. In order to provide the flexibility required by the client, the concrete floor was leveled and structural wall linings were applied to the interiors, allowing the hanging of substantial artworks anywhere within the 5.5 meters room height. Accompanying the main exhibition space on the ground floor are an access courtyard, reception, technical storage space and a rear garden courtyard onto which a bar opens.
A vertical extension accommodates supplementary programs in order to not compromise the existing spaces. This new top floor houses a multipurpose space, art storage, offices, a library, meeting room, kitchen and terrace. By thickening the wall that faced the rear courtyard it was possible to resolve the vertical circulation to the new top floor without affecting the structure of the existing slab.
This "thickened wall" – a mere two meters wide – allowed the accommodation of a mezzanine with bathrooms as well as the opening up of the newly added interior spaces towards the courtyard by means of a modern and paired down glazed facade.
Built on site using standard steel profiles and arranged in rectangular modules this façade integrates projecting windows allowing for passive ventilation.
In lieu of a fixed goods lift that would have required the perforation of the existing slab or the introduction of an extra volume infringing on the rear courtyard, the facade has an openable section that allows the movement of large format artworks to the top floor via a mobile lifting platform.
The newly built top floor is organized according to the structural scheme of the original construction, roughly forming a 9-square grid layout that provides a maximum of flexibility by allowing a variety of ways to subdivide space and distribute circulation. On reaching this floor, visitors discover the large multipurpose space that functions as an extension of the main exhibition gallery, a showroom, a work space and a place for workshops and lectures.
In keeping with the position of the original skylight, the library becomes a new central light space that articulates all other functions.
Facing the street is a more private space where the meeting room, kitchen, executive office and terrace are situated.
The terrace is the result of a 4-meter setback of the top floor which functions as a mediating element towards the street, keeping the proportions of the original facade intact and allowing for a discreet intervention.
A lateral staircase leads from here to the rooftop effectively creating an extension of the terrace during larger scale social events. In turn, this space has been conditioned to function as an outdoor workshop where part of the preparatory work for exhibitions is done. The result is a sober project that amplifies the character of the original building whilst preparing it for a new cultural life without falling back on the international conventions of the sterile white cube.