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Gran Acuario Mazatlán Mar de Cortés

Phenomena of Nature

Tatiana Bilbao

Gran Acuario Mazatlán  Mar de Cortés
By Raymund Ryan -
panoramah! has participated in the project

Mazatlán is a busy city on Mexico’s Pacific coast, a conurbation with a gridded colonial downtown and a ribbon of more recent high-rises that offer premium views of beach, several small islands, and ocean stretching north up the Sea of Cortés towards California.

Mazatlán is also of course a phenomenon of nature. Before humans began to fish and trade in these parts, and long before tourists arrived in winter from Canada and the United States, the place that is now Mazatlán formed itself at the commingling of land and water, of continent and ocean. Flying today into the city, the airplane passenger sees a long chain of lagoons: primordial liquid bodies nestling between a patchwork of fields, industrial artifacts, and the surf beyond.

It is a hybrid geography, neither aquatic nor terra firma, a liminal ecology that the new Mazatlán aquarium is intended to echo and celebrate. Designed by Tatiana Bilbao Estudio of Mexico City, the Gran Acuario Mazatlán Mar de Cortés rises from the shores of one of these linear lagoons with a sculptural character that is recognizably distinct from that of neighboring hotel and apartment buildings.

Although brand new, it is impossible to date this unexpected, massive architecture. It is a porous, monumental structure of raw concrete walls topped with vegetation and punctured by apertures open to the elements. The visitor ascends from ground level via one of a pair of dramatic staircases to a terraced roofscape before descending into the bowels of an institution dedicated to maritime life in its myriad forms.

In the late 1940s, Danish architect Jørn Utzon travelled in Mexico and wrote of the power of pre-Columbian temple structures. He noted how giant earthworks such as those in the Yucatán elevate human participants above the ground (an insight that led, ultimately, to his great platform terrace for Sydney Opera House),...

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