Mexico City


The joke goes like this: the person handing out woven mats for visitors to sit on while watching outdoor film screenings on the lawn of Mexico City's Cineteca Nacional is said to ask young couples if they would like one mat, or—lilting into a suggestive tone—two. The first is to place over the sometimes damp grass as everyone does, but the second is to use as a blanket for concealing more serious make-out sessions. It may be a winking exaggeration of the teenage hijinks that go on at the Cineteca, but the joke is revealing. With an expansion of the institution, Rojkind Arquitectos has turned a repository for Mexico's cinematic history into a public space that welcomes the sometimes unruly life of this teeming city.

Commissioned by the National Council of Culture and the Arts (Conaculta), the firm proposed a master plan for the 311,000-square-foot complex that expanded the Cineteca's facilities and gave them the feeling of an urban park. In addition to four new 180-seat theaters and new archive buildings, the plan adds a bookstore, caf', and restaurant, as well as a bar serving ice cream, all set around two grassy lawns. “We didn't want it to feel like you're in the lobby of a commercial cinema,” says firm principal Michel Rojkind. “We wanted it to feel more like a university campus, with everything floating in a park.”

The architects had their work cut out for them. Prior to the expansion, the site committed all the sins of 20th-century, car-centric planning. Designed by Manuel Rocha, the four charmingly dated theater buildings were completed in 1982 with sandpaper-like facades of rugged brown concrete. On one side of them, a cluster of rectangular buildings house vaults for the archive, while a long box on the other accommodated administrative offices. But the rest of the site was entirely taken up by acres of surface parking.

To turn the expanse into a more hospitable background for the new theaters and other amenities, Rojkind Arquitectos set out to soften the landscape. The firm consolidated parking on the east side with a six-story garage wrapped in a plant trellis. A new two-level, 16,000-square-foot theater building, two rectangular volumes bridged by a mezzanine, sits across from the existing screening rooms. After making those additions, the firm converted much of the remaining space into stylized lawns.

The architect tied together the new and old buildings as well as the green spaces with a big gesture. A gleaming, slightly Star Wars'looking white facade wraps around the new theaters and glides up as a continuous surface to become a 120-foot-long canopy. The span connects the new building to the existing theaters and creates a sheltered plaza below. The dramatic steel construction is clad in composite aluminum panels perforated with triangular openings that widen and narrow to control the amount of sunlight passing through the covering.

The canopy's bombastic shape gives the Cineteca a bold architectural identity and a new public profile—a symbol of the dynamic urban life it invites in. The sweeping form pulls you through the progression of spaces, but it also defines places to hang out, including the central plaza and the mezzanine, where the ice cream bar's wares come from the famed Roxy shop. “Before, you used to come here to see a film and then get out,” says Rojkind. “But now you can make a day of it.”

The appeal is borne out by attendance figures. The Cineteca sold 1.3 million tickets in the first year after its renovation, up from 650,000 in annual sales in the calendar year before the expansion. On a daytime visit last year, groups of non-ticket holders lingered in the parklike spaces on the way to a nearby metro station, even as construction continued on some forthcoming parts of the project. While Rojkind Arquitectos renovated the existing theaters, the client brought in Taller de Arquitectura (the firm run by Gabriela Carrillo and Mauricio Rocha, Manuel's son) to design a new film museum for the complex and to replace the administrative building with new offices and a library. Rocha has already finished renovating a black-box theater into a smartly detailed viewing room where visitors can screen digital transfers of films on private kiosks, but the pyramid-shaped museum is still several months from completion.

A few other components of the Cineteca are also works in progress. Officials put pressure on the construction team to open the national cinema before former president Felipe Calder'n left office in December 2012. As a result, the cinema debuted with hasty finishes and incomplete components. But Rojkind and his firm have pushed the new administration to upgrade some of the materials and see the project to completion, and they have made significant progress over the last year. Now, there are plans to add more bike racks and a beer garden, among other new amenities.

The process has been slow going, but Rojkind is content with his compromise. “We sacrificed better details to have a better campus,” he says. “The details can be improved, but this was our one shot to make a great public space.” Finished or not, it's already an excellent place to bring a date.


Formal name of building:
Cineteca Nacional Siglo XXI

Mexico City, Mexico

Completion Date:
On Going

Gross square footage:
49,000m2 / 527,431 sq. ft.

Total construction cost:
30,000,000 USD

Banobras- Fideicomiso para la Cineteca Nacional

Architect's firm name, address, phone, and fax number:
Rojkind Arquitectos
Tamaulipas 30 piso 12
Colonia Hip'dromo Condesa
M'xico, D.F
CP 06170
+52 55 5280 8396

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Michel Rojkind (Founding Partner), Gerardo Salinas AIA (Partner)
Team: Gerardo Villanueva (Project Manager), Barbara Trujillo (Project Architect), Alfredo Hernandez, Diego Leal, Andrea Leon, Rodrigo Medina, Philipp Schlauch, Beatriz Zavala, Birgit Hammer, Juan Manuel Ortu'o, David Stalin Vergara, Alonso de la Fuente, Rafael Cedillo, Arie Willem de Jongh, Victor Mart'nez, Adrian Aguilar, David Guardado
Media: Monique Rojkind, Rosalba Rojas, Cynthia Cardenas, Dolores Robles

Interior designer:
Alberto Villareal Bello (Principal), Isaac Smeke, Felipe Casta'eda, Emilia Franssen, Alejandra Hernandez, Collaborator: Esrawe Studio

Structural Engineer: CTC Ingenieros

Roof Engineer:
Studio NYL


Landscape: Ambiente Arquitectos

Ideas y Proyectos en Luz

Theater and AV Consultant:
Auerbach Pollock Friedlander


Graphic design:
Citricos + Welcome Branding

General contractor:

Guido Torres: +52 1 55 5542761366
Paul Rivera: (917) 304 2024
Jaime Navarro: +52 1 55 54193459

Credits for all renders and Drawings: ©Rojkind Arquitectos

CAD system, project management, or other software used:


530,000 square feet


$30 million

Completion date:




Structural system
Steel Frame: Grupo Baysa, Jose Enrique Calderon, + 52 55 5516 7920
Concrete: CICCSA, Luis Felipe Maymon, + 52 55 1327 0095

Exterior cladding
Masonry: CICCSA
Metal Panels: Vialdi, Francisco Bravo, + 52 55 1546 6050
Storefront System: Vialdi, Francisco Bravo, + 52 55 1546 6050
Precast Concrete Panels: Nucleos Integrales, Mauricio Santana, + 52 55 5656 0684
Metal Hand Rails: Todo Metal, Pablo Reyes, + 52 55 5404 4083
Exterior Paving: Basaltex + Stone Piedras Naturales, Eduardo Cohen, + 52 55 2564 5231

Built-up roofing: Johns Manville

Metal frame: Vialdi, Francisco Bravo, + 52 55 1546 6050

Glass: Vialdi, Francisco Bravo, + 52 55 1546 6050


Metal doors: AGR, Agustin Escobedo, + 52 55 2978 0685 Acoustic doors: AGR, Agustin Escobedo + 52 55 2978 0685

Locksets: Hager

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: Roland, Esther Nicanor, + 52 55 1036 0640
Suspension grid: Manauta
Cabinetwork: Cocinas y Muebles fechio, Francisco Saavedra, + 52 55 6304 7004
Paints and stains: Comex
Wall coverings: Argos, Luis Delgado, + 52 55 5812 8863
Paneling: Comex, Jesus Gonz'lez, + 52 55 2637 6215
Solid surfacing: Herrer'a Martinez, Oscar Mart'nez, + 52 55 8506 2694
DuPont: Noe Gonzalez, + 52 55 2764 5860
Floor and wall tile: Porcelanosa, Abraham Vilchis, + 52 55 5831 7340
Carpet: Decoraci'n Gerard, Humberto Anaya + 52 55 5548 3244

Theater seating: Mobiliario, Raul Caballero, 54133376
Upholstery: Argos, Luis Delgado, 58128863

Downlights and Task lighting: Construlita Lighting, Luis Lozoya, 2383900

Sim'n El'ctrica, Gabriel Reyes, 55457865

Elevators/Escalators: OTIS Elevators, Enrique Vadas 26363179

American Standard