The Hospital of Convalescents of Our Lady of Bethlehem and St. Francis Xavier was founded in 1675 in Mexico City. During the eighteenth century the Senior Master of Architecture Don Lorenzo Rodriguez, architect of the Sagrario in Mexico City’s cathedral and one of the more outstanding architects of Mexican baroque expanded the convent, thus giving harmony to the entire building. This undertaking, which left the edifice as we observe it today, was concluded in 1766.
When the Order of Hospitalers was suppressed in 1821 at the end of Mexico’s war of independence, the building was left adrift, being subjected to different uses, invariably adapting to them and thus inevitably facing ruin, decadence and defacement. Finally, the Banco de Mexico (central bank) took over the building and in 1993 began the restoration works that eventually would last over a decade.
Once the initial rescue team had finished its work and the use of the space re-defined as a high-tech museum, Entasis came aboard during the development phase that would bring the building new life and meaning. The projects undertaken within the old convent were: museum; vertical circulation (i.e. the use of elevators and new stairwells); the roofing of the Patio de los Novicios; access and security control; business centre; education centre; temporary exhibition rooms; cafeteria; public spaces; furnishing and toilets.
The original plan of the building cut off the street-front perimeter by popular living-quarters and trade, all quite estranged from the inner life of the convent. This spatial conformation, on all three storeys, simply complicated the flow amongst each particular project undertaking.
The cafeteria which is located on the ground floor in the corner of Tacuba and Bolivar streets was developed in a second stage between 2010 and 2011. As in the rest of the building the design was conceived with the purpose of giving a new lease of life to this abandoned and time weathered building, respecting in as much as possible the original architecture of the edifice. The cornerstone of this project was to try to rediscover the ontological bond between the twenty-first century secular concept of a cafeteria that would find itself rhythmically and spiritually integrated within the ageing walls of the mystic Spanish colonial heritage of eighteenth century convent life.
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