Botanical GardenCuliacán, a city in northwestern Mexico, 80 km away from the Pacific Coast, has a population of over than one million inhabitants. For more than thirty years its botanical garden has been known for its collection of tropical flora containing over 750 species. Ernesto Coppel, the president for the board of trustees, began this garden with the intention of improving the city’s quality of life and offering Culiacan’s people new ways to learn through experience: touching, seeing, smelling.Besides its plant variety, this garden is unique because it functions like a park. Visitors can enjoy various activities such as: sports, picnics, or promenades through the landscape.To develop this unique space, Coppel decided to commission a curator and thirty-five of the most renowned artists to make site-specific art to compel visitors to contemplate on the mediation between art and society. Taller de Operaciones Ambientales (TOA) was commissioned to strengthen the botanical collection into one of the preeminent collections in Mexico.Tatiana Bilbao’s office was brought onto the project to develop a masterplan that would mediate between the landscape and art, and place the necessary service buildings that would organize the program. We developed a pattern by tracing the branches of one of the park’s most emblematic trees into the existing plan and mapping it into a diagram of programmatic needs. A set of buildings including cultural areas, educational facilities, laboratories and green houses, storage and administrative offices with public services were deployed throughout the Garden.Open AuditoriumThe small open-air structure within the Botanical Garden can welcome up to seventy visitors. Was conceived to watch a seven-minute introductory video to the Botanical Garden.As with other service buildings within the garden, the protagonist is nature and buildings are secondary, discreet in appearance so as to provide services and frame spaces without becoming an overbearing presence. This simple space defined by three, twelve-inch-thick, concrete walls is covered only by the shade of the surrounding trees to provide a more comfortable setting to its users, giving the volume a more sculptural quality instead of an over-designed presence.Educational ServicesThe educational compound within the Botanical Garden of Culiacán is composed of three separate buildings; an educational room for kids and teachers where workshops are organized for children, a hundred- seat auditorium for different kinds of screenings and lectures, and a service building with toilet facilities. Each of the three buildings contains an individual program, and together they form an entity with the same tectonic language and a virtual diagonal that cuts and defines its roofs. Its enclosures were built with lightweight concrete slabs and the walls are 30 cm thick, to give the volumes a sculptural quality instead of an over-designed presence.LaboratoriesThe laboratories function much like Louis Kahn’s ‘servant spaces’ for the Botanical Garden, backgrounded as key service areas that enable the entirety of the garden to continue functioning. Different divisions of spaces are used for storage (tools, art pieces, plants, and isolation for infected plants), workshops, and employee services.The Greenhouse is the only building that does not have the same materials as the rest of the set. For programmatic reasons, it was conceived as a space defined by an element made of a material that allows the passage and handling of light and heat. The Greenhouse allows the cultivation and care of various species requiring a specific space and a controlled climate. It will house a large collection of tropical and exotic plants and about twenty different species of orchids. This area is built with a glass structure that has a film with a pattern that simulates the shade of the same trees that are around, to enable the internal temperature control.North AccessThe whole of the northern access of the Botanical Garden of Culiacán is made up of a visitor center and an office building, place of work of architects and administrators of the Botanical and Zoological Society of Culiacán.The buildings, whose volumetry is born from the master plan, are apparent concrete polygons with floor-to-ceiling windows and some sloping walls. It is a formally irregular and organic set, which resembles stones that perch on a garden.The balanced relationship of solid and transparent surface creates a permeable and diffuse boundary between the nature of the exterior and the interior, generating workspaces that have a privileged relationship with the environment, where natural light abounds.In the middle of the two buildings is a set of four concrete structures that resemble umbrellas, which create a semi-covered and shaded area just below the pedestrian access, also creating a living space with benches and planters.