top of page



Centro de Investigación Mar de Cortés

Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO

Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico

April 2023


Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO (Firm), Tatiana Bilbao Spamer (CEO)



Jose Luis Mogollón


Juan Manuel McGrath, Iwan Baan, Rodrigo Chapa (concrete model)


In 2017, we were also commissioned to design the aquarium to create a world-class tourism product that would generate identity and pride among local people, while also being a place to exhibit species of the Sea of Cortez and a marine life research center for the conservation and preservation of endangered species typical of aquatic ecosystems. For us, the building had to transmit to those who enter it the idea that we are part of nature and make explicit how architecture can become a means to reintegrate us into our ecosystem, allowing us, as a species, to remain on this planet. We started by imagining that the aquarium was a ruin and that the ecosystems of the Sea of Cortez had taken over. The aquarium offers an educational tour of the marine and coastal ecosystems of the Sea of Cortez through educational programs, exhibits, laboratory, auditorium, public plazas, administrative areas, and conservation zones for endemic species. Innovatively designed to merge marine and terrestrial elements, the Aquarium departs from traditional architectural norms. Large marine tanks display diverse species, encouraging visitor interaction and observation, while a conservation program focuses on the rehabilitation of marine species. The structure, spanning 17,300 sqm, features tall, thick walls of pigmented concrete, combining programmatic spaces with the surrounding landscape to achieve structural integrity. Monumental stairs lead to rooftop gardens, the central plaza is the hub for accessing various exhibition ecosystems and educational programs. The marine life support facilities are on the third level.


Located in the state of Sinaloa, Mazatlan is a coastal city currently in expansion with a program of urban improvement and the creation of new quality tourism products promoted by the municipal government. One of the most important projects is the Mazatlan Central Park, a natural space strategically located in the southwest of Mazatlan, considered one of the city's largest green lungs, covering 32.54 hectares. The Park, which connects to the boardwalk and becomes part of an area with a high potential for social enjoyment, was abandoned and deteriorated; therefore, we sought to recover its ecological balance and turn it into a new tourist product of international quality that adds value to the city, including a large public park with lakes, bike paths, and walkways, connecting to Mazatlan's boardwalk, a stadium, sports facilities and the new aquarium: Sea of Cortez Research Center. The design of the park was done by our firm. The first stage of the project focused on the restoration of the lagoon, the regeneration and expansion of the City Forest, and the construction of the Sea of Cortez Research Center, considering that the latter would be the cornerstone of the complex. The three levels of government were involved in the Aquarium construction project, as well as the private sector, the Hotel Association, and various professional and social actors. This new aquarium would replace the pre-existing one, which was located right there, and which had become obsolete and insufficient in capacity.


Mazatlan Central Park underwent a remarkable transformation in just five years, evolving from a neglected area with an outdated aquarium into a vibrant ecological space boasting a rejuvenated lagoon, mangrove swamp, and a new Aquarium: Sea of Cortez Research Center. This ecological restoration breathed new life into the surroundings, marking a significant regeneration initiative for the area. The Center emerged as the centerpiece of this regeneration effort, blending seamlessly with the park's public, natural, and cultural elements. Its unique architectural design quickly turned it into not only an iconic landmark within the city but even a national reference. Since its inauguration, the Sea of Cortez Research Center, housed within the Aquarium, has garnered widespread acclaim and local pride. This is evident in its visitor numbers, surpassing initial expectations which were 550,000 visitors a year. In just eight months following its opening, from May 2023 to January 2024, the Sea of Cortez Research Center welcomed a staggering 827,064 visitors, far exceeding the old aquarium's annual attendance of 225,000. The success of the building extends beyond its popularity, with its architecture facilitating the efficient operation of exhibition spaces and equipment. Moreover, the design successfully integrates with its surroundings, fostering harmonious connections between the natural ecosystem, social environment, and the building itself.

bottom of page