Key Dates

1 March 2023 - Launch Deadline
30 April 2023 - Standard Deadline
18 May 2023 - Extended Deadline
24 November 2023 - Judging
30 December 2023 - Winners Announced

Image Credit : Snøhetta; Monolito





Project Overview

The landscape of the Museo de Ciencias Ambientales (MCA) at the University of Guadalajara (UdeG) in Jalisco, Mexico, provides holistic interpretations of the museum’s novel and urgent mission of “understanding the city and inspiring the conservation of nature that sustains it.” The landscape is an integral part of the MCA concept and architecture. Its co-design process included the participation of neighbors, indigenous communities, high school teachers, exhibition designers, and thematic specialists from UN HABITAT and from UdeG. The design process ensured that all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are present in the Museum landscape.

The 2.6-hectare network of gardens surrounding the building constitutes the first educational exhibition that visitors encounter. Generous walkways connect the large library and auditorium buildings at opposite ends of the University’s cultural campus. Multiple entrances allow access permeability and pedestrian circulation flow through the central “canyon” of the Museum building.

Visitors are immersed in the bio-cultural diversity of western Mexico in gardens with over 450 species of native plants of Pine-oak, Tropical, Coastal, Arid, Wetland, and Agricultural vegetation that create rich and distinctive sensory experiences. Each garden and species of plant tells a story about the place. The vegetation penetrates the central "canyon,” climbing a 25m high waterfall that emerges from the building and reaches the rooftop, evoking the 4000-meter altitudinal gradient of Jalisco.

Project Commissioner

Centro Cultural Universitario-Universidad de Guadalajara

Project Creator



University of Guadalajara, Snøhetta, Met Studio, Thinc Design, JSa, Zap, Metroarquitectura, Monolito

Project Brief

Inspired by the confluence of cultural and natural forces that have created the rich diversity of landforms and habitats throughout Western Mexico, the landscape design displays the connections and interdependencies between the urban, rural, and wilderness conditions. The materials and planting palettes selected, evoke the geography that shaped regional trade and farming practices, creating western Mexico’s unique biocultural landscapes of today.

A variety of hardscape surface materials were selected for both durability and resonance with the vernacular landscapes. Although novel in design, they are rooted in a local sense of place. The themes of prehispanic commerce begin with seashells, salt, and obsidian gardens, ending with a mineral (silver and gold) garden, referencing past colonialism, slavery, and the present unsustainable mining practices.

Fully open to the public, the gardens provide outdoor experiences and community-building opportunities for locals. The space is designed to facilitate engagement across all communities. Public potable water stations, unusual in Guadalajara, reduce the cost of buying plastic water bottles. With minimal signage, the educational content is embedded in the design. Interpretative guided tours and online access open various layers of information, offering new opportunities for informal education. The Museum gardens will be a tourist destination, generating new economic dynamics at different scales. The educational and training workshops associated with the gardens, all contribute to creating employment opportunities.

Project Innovation/Need

Multiple narrative threads are braided together along the generous walkways and paths. Pedestrian circulation flows through the central canyon of the Museum, activating a series of outdoor gathering spaces. Pathways within and around the building are organized to frame views of the surrounding natural and built environment. The landscape experience culminates in the rooftop “Mirador” vantage terrace that views the city and nearby mountains.

The story of erosion, told in the walls of the building canyon, is extended into the museum gardens where seating and retaining walls appear to be carved remnants of a larger form. In addition to the walls, the textured paved surfaces, ‘acequia’, in addition to a rain garden all celebrate water flow and capture.

The Museum landscape contributions to the SDGs are provided directly through the functional use of the space and infrastructure, and indirectly through the pre-defined educational themes that will be discussed in the gardens. Landscape gardens are, in essence, an educational and participation tool for developing urban public policy. With the adjacent building areas, they provide spaces to conduct public planning workshops organized by the UdeG and the municipal government. Themes like access to public green space and urban services, traffic mobility problems, gentrification and exclusion, sports and recreation, and desertification, all find concrete inspiration in the landscaping.

Design Challenge

The goal of this project is to be a catalyst for socio-ecological changes in our community environment. We hope to assist in building resilient communities that meet higher standards of living, help the younger generation discover their passion and local impact, popularize scientific learning, and lastly, promote critical thinking around the subjects of diversity and tolerance.

The challenge has involved balancing multiple narratives, from the biogeographical, historical, and cultural confluences that shape Western Mexico. The museum had a difficult but rewarding mission to act as a catalyst of urban socio-ecological sustainable development by creating enticing outdoor experiences that provide beautiful calm spaces, knowledge sharing, self-esteem building, and cultural pride.

The museum and its landscape are designed with the explicit objectives of promoting basic human rights: the right to education, a healthy environment, a dignified standard of living, information, and leisure, all contributing to a strong democracy. We feel these elements are necessary for empowering disenfranchised sectors of society, strengthening the social fabric of adjacent neighborhoods, and reducing different types of inequities.


The Museum landscape implements sustainability technologies in the urban context that are expected to achieve a LEED Platinum certification. Educational blue-green infrastructure permeates the landscape with “rain gardens” punctuated by 24 recharging groundwater wells, geothermal air-collecting cooling pipes, solar panel pergolas, and roof-water capturing mechanisms for irrigation, among other techniques that contribute towards climate change mitigation.

The public green area substituted the pre-existing hardscape parking lot, thus increasing plant and animal biodiversity, contributing to carbon sequestration, reducing water demand, increasing water infiltration, reducing atmospheric pollution, and mitigating the urban heat island effect. Pre-Hispanic agricultural terraces and bird-friendly shade-coffee gardens exemplify sustainable agricultural techniques.

The landscape project has been part of the Museum case study during the 2022 and 2023 UN HABITAT International Summit on Latin America and the Caribbean Urban Habitats. The agricultural, pollination, and medicinal gardens are places that ignite discussions about diet, nutrition, and global trade. Individual nutrition, world hunger, and the importance of urban and peri-urban agriculture are obligatory themes of food-producing gardens. Coastal and lake gardens provide opportunities to discuss marine and freshwater conservation.

Over the years, women at Snøhetta and UdeG have played major leadership roles in the design process. Single women lead over one-fourth of households in the neighborhoods surrounding the Museum. Some of the extracurricular services for children and adolescents in the landscape originated in response to their requests during workshops. This landscape design aspires to help build socio-ecological resilient communities that achieve better standards of living.

This award celebrates innovative and creative design for environmental projects. Consideration given to materials, finishes, sustainablility and environmental impact.
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