Gensler Costa Rica Updates a Local Brutalist Landmark
’s Costa Rica office—which celebrates its 10th anniversary next year—recently executed a confident update of a local Brutalist landmark. Gensler Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica is a three-level subterranean treasure trove, with a museum devoted to gold objects of the pre-Columbian era and another showing the evolution of the country’s currency. Located directly below San José’s bustling Plaza de la Cultura, the museums themselves are a tourist destination, yet their gift shop attracted little foot traffic—perhaps because tucked as it was behind the lobby’s box office, it drew little attention.
Design director Richard Hammond, an area leader of Gensler’s Arts & Culture practice, was tasked with giving the space a higher profile and better showcasing its merchandise…while staying true to its period quirks. “I’m interested in design as an act of transformation,” he explains, “through determining what in a project is worth keeping—and what needs to be changed.” As the building was listed in the local historic registry, the concrete exterior and triangular honeycomb ceiling were on the “keeper” list. The team maintained the bold sense of geometry, too. “The museum also has triangular entrance gates, which we used as inspiration for various details,” Hammond says.
One feature that could be changed was the store’s footprint, so Hammond and team enlarged it, almost doubling it to a sizable 1,700 square feet. Relocating the museums’ ticket booth made it possible to extend the store all the way to the facade and add a large streetfront window—triangular, of course. “We also added another entrance facing the building’s main doors so now when people arrive and exit, the shop is more noticeable,” the architect says.
Along with new white ceiling panels and sustainable linoleum floors, Gensler installed more lighting as well as rhomboidal display shelving to showcase the fine jewelry and local handicrafts—increasing the likelihood that visitors will take home a memento.