Children’s Library, Cuernavaca, Mexico




Palleroni, Sergio,Studio At Large:  Architecture in Service of Global Communities, Seattle:  University of Washington Press, 2004

Intentions: As part of a long tradition of student service learning projects in the area by Sergio Palleroni of the University of Washington and famed maverick architects Steve Badanes and Jim Adamson of the Jersey Devil Architecture Group, the goal was to design and build a children’s library in the Joya del Agua neighborhood on the outskirts of Cuernavaca, Mexico using green building strategies and local aesthetics and materials in a 7 week period.

Functional Results: The building was sited next to a soccer field chopped into the variegated landscape and sturdy basalt lava rock, with a stunning view of the 17,800ft volcano Popocatepetl to the east.   In under a week, a team of 40 of us designed the basic layout of the building:  three main rooms separated by four wing walls with a reading garden to the east and an arcade and cistern on the south side.   The curving roof, low on the south side and high on the north, was designed to stimulate a chimney effect, drawing up and through the building, creating natural cooling.   Rain water was also channeled from the roof, down the wing walls, and into a dual level cistern, the lower water to be used for plumbing and the upper water creating a reflecting pool, bouncing light onto the ceiling of the building while the arcade itself minimized solar gain.    Generous windows on the north side bring in additional light while the wing walls block direct light in the early morning and late afternoons.

Aesthetic Results: All of us were inspired by the long legacy of building by our neighbors to the south.  The diagonal wing walls are tributes to the numerous pre-Spanish pyramids found throughout the area.    We utilized basalt rocks and boulders removed during excavation to make stunning stone walls enclosing the east garden.   Steel doors using a hinge system reminiscent of Mexico’s most celebrated architect, Luis Barragan, were created on site.   On the walk back to the buses one day, some locals asked what we were building.   We told them it was to be a children’s library.   “Oh my!”  they replied, “your building is so beautiful we were sure it was a church!”


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