Fernanda Ahumada + FREE - National Biodiversity Pavilion, an interpretation of the Tree of Life
  1. Home
  2. Award 2023
  3. Culture
  4. National Biodiversity Pavilion, an interpretation of the Tree of Life

National Biodiversity Pavilion, an interpretation of the Tree of Life

Fernanda Ahumada + FREE

Culture  /  Completed
Fernanda Ahumada + FREE

The National Biodiversity Pavilion was designed to grow and conserve the archives of the Institute of Biology UNAM, as well as to create thematic laboratories for the scientific study of the largest collection of extinct species in Latin America. The architectural concept proposes a radiating pattern that arises from the interpretation of the Tree of Life and the idea that every living being is connected. The stairs, located in the center of the building, represent the double helix of DNA. This vertical core connects the different spaces of the pavilion: exhibition halls, archives, and laboratories, to make functional the project.

For connecting the project directly to the site, we create 360-degree panoramic views to the natural landscape through its double façade of glass and multi-perforated aluminum that opens and closes in the form of waves to offer views and natural lighting. The result is a façade made up of thousands of 30x20 cm aluminum modules that move with the wind. The lower level functions as a showcase for endemic biodiversity by directly integrating views of the natural space surrounding the building. The upper levels have a double façade of glass and multi-perforated aluminum that offers controlled views. The base of the building is built with cantera, a volcanic stone that is the most characteristic element of the local biodiversity.

The project was recognized by "ADI Awards" as the most important architectural project in Latin America. The award granted was for Social Responsibility and Impact because the project aims at disseminates the importance of caring for biodiversity. In fact, a major challenge was how to distribute the archives of the Institute's four collections—mammals, reptiles, fish, and birds—due to the considerable number of square meters that had to be allocated. Each collection was strategically located to meet its needs in terms of climate, storage, and future growth. To ensure proper operation, it includes high-density storage compactors. It also includes an orthogonal structure within the circular structure to optimize the storage areas and allow for future growth.

Due the privileged location of the Pavilion, immersed in the university's cultural corridor, main access is through a staggered esplanade that welcomes visitors and connects to the cultural corridor.

Its circular floor plan achieved two main objectives: on the one hand, it unites all the spaces through a single vertical core. On the other, it creates 360-degree panoramic views of the natural landscape.

Each level operates through three invisible rings: the first ring for the general public houses the permanent exhibits; the second is for internal use and contains the collections; the last protects the rest of the program and is located at the edge of the façade, it's used for specialized consultation spaces, laboratories, and curatorial offices.

The project can be summarized as a fusion between public and private spaces, where visitors can interact with the exhibits and the site. These interactions pretend to awaken curiosity about all the issues that underlie the study and conservation of these species.

“In this building, the main theme is biodiversity, and its backbone is the biological collections. It was thanks to the Carlos Slim Foundation that this project was able to materialize, where real copies of each collection are exhibited. It is a biological heritage that is presented in a playful way so that visitors discover something new on each visit. We want to convey the importance of these collections in history.”


 Ciudad Universitaria UNAM, Mexico City
 Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
 Museum and investigation laboratories
 17117 mq
  NaN.00 $
 Fernanda Ahumada + FR-EE
 Karen García Villegas, Christiane Salem, Francisco Román, Alejandro Marin
 Fundación Carlos Slim
 Executive project: Reactiva Arquitectura — Laura Dominguez + Ana Paula Herrera / Lighting design: ILWT / Aluminum and façades: IASA / Museography : Alejandro Nasta + Instituto Biología UNAM
 César Belio, Mariola Soberón


Fernanda Ahumada is architect from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (2014) with honorable mention and winner of the Abraham Zabludovsky Award.

With a twelve-year career in large-scale commercial and housing projects for Grupo Carso, Fernanda seeks to capture in her architecture a reinterpretation of the public-private relationship of a building and its integration into the urban space, applied to commercial, cultural, and mixed uses projects.

She participated in the reconstruction program of the Carlos Slim Foundation, with the preparation and coordination of education, housing, and health projects for those affected by the earthquakes in 2017, concluding her participation in the program with the reopening of the GEA González Hospital tower in 2022.

Committed to cultural and scientific dissemination, she participated in the conceptualization and project of the National Biodiversity Pavilion for the UNAM Institute of Biology between 2020 and 2022.

© Maggioli SpA • THE PLAN • Via del Pratello 8 • 40122 Bologna, Italy • T +39 051 227634 • P. IVA 02066400405 • ISSN 2499-6602 • E-ISSN 2385-2054
ITC Avant Garde Gothic® is a trademark of Monotype ITC Inc. registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and which may be registered in certain other jurisdictions.