Inside the City of Books at José Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City

Mexico City Of Books

(Image credit: TBC)

The Carlos Monsiváis Personal Library may be housed in an historic 1807 building, but it demonstrates a novel way of organising books, and a suitably modern interior to match. Occupying a section of Mexico City’s old José Vasconcelos Library (opens in new tab) (pictured), it is part of a new literary venture called the City of Books showcasing the intellectual journey of five key Mexican thinkers (Ali Chumacero, Carlos Monsiváis, José Luis Martínez, Jaime García Terrés and Antonio Castro Leal) through their personal book collections. A team of five architects was appointed to work on the interior design and create a separate space for each of the literary collections. The Carlos Monsiváis Personal Library is the latest to be completed and is designed by JSa Arquitectura. It occupies a walnut-clad, double-height row of rooms on the west wing and aims to bring the public closer to the mind of the writer by arranging his books to showcase the development of his thinking. Click through the gallery to see all five spaces...

Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

Architect: JSa Arquitectura (opens in new tab)
Thinker: Carlos Monsiváis


The west wing of the library is dedicated entirely to the late Carlos Monsiváis, an influential Mexican writer, journalist and political activist. Designed by JSa, the biblioteca holds Monsiváis' extensive personal collection of literature, uniquely arranged according to the influence of each book on his literary evolution. Among the towering shelves are several works of art from Monsiváis' compatriot, renowned painter and sculptor Francisco Toledo

Architect: BGP Architects (opens in new tab)
Thinker: Antonio Castro Leal


BGP Architects are the masterminds behind the space dedicated to writer and politician Antonio Castro Leal. The expanse incorporates several architectural elements inspired by the private library at Castro Leal's home in Coyoacán. Light is an integral design feature. Using the existing skylights, LED lighting, light wood flooring, stainless steel and glass upper-flooring against dark wooden shelves, BGP have created a setting of contrasts to house the thinker's books

Library

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

Bookshelves in library

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

José Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

José Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

Architect: Alejandro Sánchez García Arquitectos (opens in new tab)
Thinker: José Luis Martinez


Designed by architect Alejandro Sánchez to replicate the personal library of author and diplomat José Luis Martinez, this mammoth treasury stores the scholar's entire literature collection - believed to be the largest private collection of 20th-century Mexican literature to date. In order to give visitors genuine insight into the cerebral workings of the man himself, mountains of books are organised in the same way Martinez arranged them at home. Hanging from the ceiling, a fleet of plane mobiles rather poetically represents the way literature can make your imagination, and intellect, soar

Library, Mexico City

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

Library with sofa chair

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

José Vasconcelos Library

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

Architects: Arquitectura 911sc (opens in new tab)
Thinker: Jaime Garcia Terrés


Jose Castillo and Saidee Springall's offering to the 'Mexico City of Books' project houses the private collection of writer and poet Jaime Garcia Terrés. The space is lined from ceiling to floor with wood panelling and features a reproduction of Terrés' former writing desk. An installation by Perla Krauze called 'Time Suspended' hangs from the ceiling; it's comprised of a few hundred resin stones of varying colours and shapes with the purpose of reflecting and distorting natural light throughout the day

José Vasconcelos Library

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

Inside the City of Books at José Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

Library with seating arrangement

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

Architect: Jorge Calvillo (opens in new tab)
Thinker: Alí Chumacero


Of the five libraries, Jorge Calvillo's follows the most traditional thread. The dark wood finish resembles an old-world library in which the vast collection of poet Alí Chumacero is displayed. Calvillo and his team decided to keep things simple and create a space that wasn't visually directed, in order to let the books do the talking. The focal point of the library is a tree from Chumacero's own home. Other personal items exhibited throughout the rooms include paintings and a ceramic mural

José Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

José Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City

(Image credit: Romy van den Broeke)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).

With contributions from