The Zócalo 11 de Julio is set as a system that organizes a program of new spaces with the urban structure, seeking to become an important symbol in the public life of the habitants of Tijuana. This system originates from several strategies of intervention: to link uses and buildings that already exist, to priorities the pedestrian, to dignify and improve public spaces surrounding the existing facilities, to insert new commercial and cultural activities in order to give more life to the place, to propose the roofs as green and enjoyable open spaces that can be used, as well as to make the paved areas the zone managers and visual guides of the whole ensamble.
To achieve this, the proposal is divided in two layers: the superior one is for civic activity that connects the two sides of the Tijuana river, and the inferior layer articulates government buildings and it is going to be a flexible space, where activities of commerce, culture, and service are going to take place. Beneath this whole system of activities lies the parking lot to which one can access through the underpassing streets of Boulevard Centenario and Vía Rápida Poniente.
The superior layer is a large civic square that connects the cathedral, the CECUT, and the Río Tijuana square. These links are part of a walkway with low vegetation, fountains, and several structures in the form of pergolas that go throughout the walk, with such versatility that they can be used to form a shaded walk, to install craft market stands, exhibit art works, street performances, use them for advertising or publicity, or just to take cover from the sun, rain, and to have a rest. The central part is the civic square, a place where mass gatherings for concerts, parades, and civic ceremonies can take place; the trace of the pavement attempts to get and emphasize the sights of the existing buildings or important elements within the square. On one side of the state house stands a wide stage that can be used for massive concerts or presentations, and it can also serve as a gathering space due to the large fountain. This esplanade is separated from the preserved buildings with an enough distance to avoid reducing their importance in relation to the rest of the complex.
The square crosses overhead the Tijuana River and it connects with an open space that goes over the Vía Rápida Poniente, this space is planned to have intense commercial activity using its link with the Plaza Río parking lot. A series of commerces and restaurants next to the parking building with a view to the Zócalo give life to the place posed as a democratic transition from public to private, it makes the most of the shopping mall and dissolves into it. Finally, this square narrows down until it turns into a bridge that connects the back garden of the CECUT, becoming an entrance to the Zócalo from this building. The light rail passes under the square and above the edge of the River, so a station is placed here, it emerges over the square as an sculptural element on the south side of the commercial area.
The inferior layer preserves some existing buildings and vegetation, it is conceived as a set of squares and gardens organized with an intense cultural-commercial activity that will enable it to live 24/7. Under the cover formed by the Zócalo a commercial area is contained, it lodges restaurants and shops that will coexist with controlled informal commerce, art exhibitions, and fairs. All these activities will have a visual and physical link to the green areas created by preservation of a large portion of the existing vegetation. The central space is a lake where the pedestrians can ride a boat or simply admire the Emblem-Tower that emerges from it. On the west side, a central park is placed surrounding the lake and the green areas will be used for open air expositions and for family outings. On the north-east side there are two other parks, one in the City Hall that enables it to increase its public spaces and connects it to the central park and the cathedral; the other one is in front of the east façade of the State House. It works as an exterior hall for this building and the Instituto de Cultura de Baja California, whose entrance is below the main Stage of the Civic Square, and it goes all the way from its side until it connects with the park of the City Hall.
The old ICBC building will be moved to its new location under the Zócalo, the Institute uses the broad space under the large square for two interior exhibition areas, two exterior ones, a conference room, classrooms, offices, rehearsal spaces, and an open air forum for over 1400 people. The public areas extend visually and physically to the exterior, making the visitors of the Zócalo involved in its activities.
It is the main building, the milestone of the Zócalo from which the civic activities will be directed. It is a white cylindrical tower, inspired in its shape and color by the minaret in the old Agua Caliente casino; attached to it there is a volume covered with LED screens that will project information 24 hours a day. The screens will serve as support for massive events. The first floor will have the entrance, with a pier for the leisure activities of the lake over which the tower is located. The next three levels will contain the Benito Juárez public library, to which one can also enter by a ramp. The fifth floor will lodge a restaurant, and the sixth level will have a terrace for public and private events. The rest levels will be used for cafeterias and the last three for observation decks.Location: Tijuana, Mexico
Architect: 7XA Taller de Arquitectura
Award: World Architecture Festival 2011 – Shortlisted Photograph: Ricardo Cisneros