At the end of 2004, INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) and CONACULTA (National Council for the Culture and the Arts) determined architect Alejandro Sánchez García as the winner of the nation-wide contest summoned by the Department of Culture of the state of San Luis Potosí for the intervention of the former state penitentiary and its transformation into a center for the arts.
Converting a building originally conceived for depriving people from their liberty into a public space with an artistic and cultural affinity was not an easy task. The construction planned by architect Carlos Suárez Fiallo dates from the late 19th century and displays a panopticon scheme, with an observation and surveillance area on the center and eight concentric sections radially arranged around it, so the guards could have visual control of everything happening in the vicinity.
Even though the original project wasn’t fully completed (only the ground floor of four of the eight sections was built, and not the two stories as originally intended), the prison worked for many years, and even held distinguished characters such as Francisco I. Madero who started writing the famous Plan de San Luis inside it.
Discarding the stigma surrounding the penitentiary system of a country plagued with social conflicts required not only an intervention at aesthetic and functional levels, but also an entire evolution from within, that could physically and metaphorically confer a new meaning to it. So the intervention began over its essence, the basic elements which confer it its prison character: the cells. The limestone blocks that formed them were removed piece by piece and taken to the exterior.