In an upscale northern suburb of Guadalajara, the new Palace of Culture & Communication (PALCCO) is a state-of-the-art performing arts center that will be more modern than any space in Latin America when it opens in February 2015.
The shiny steel exterior is aggressively modern, rising dramatically above the surrounding neighborhood. The entrance integrates a long lobby and “Wall of Art” curving around the performance hall. The twisting lobby ends at a covered, open-air, 3,350-seat amphitheater, where Cirque du Soleil has visited to discuss designing a seasonal show.
Inside the grand foyer, the lobby extends out into numerous museum spaces that will showcase exhibits themed around radio and television technological advances in the 20th century, digital communications in the 21st century, and how brand marketing has evolved with the advancement of technology.
PALCCO will also house five restaurants, seven bars and a 20-suite hotel. The goal is to develop a combined educational, cultural, dining and entertainment experience for local residents, visiting tourists and international corporate groups.
Walking into the performance hall stops you in your tracks as you stare up at the sheer height of the space. There will be 1,200 seats in the main seating area, 700 in the balcony and 100 in the VIP balcony suites perched along the two walls on each side of the stage. The suites house 14 and 16 people with a living area, private bathroom and separate elevator entrance.
Walking backstage, we’re shown how the enormous stage floor is a little bouncy.
“That’s for the ballerinas,” explains Carlos Linares-Urcuyo, director of sales/marketing for PALCCO. “The stage is 22 meters wide [72 feet], so that is really big. The stage for the Met Opera in New York is 16 meters wide.”
Linares-Urcuyo adds that the stage itself is 7,700 square feet, with pulley systems able to hold 60 backdrops weighing a total of 360 tons. There is direct truck access from the street into the stage, and PALCCO is the world’s first performing arts center to use 100% LED lighting.
For group presentations, the 1,200 seats in main seating have excellent sight lines, two arm rests and folding trays for laptops and note taking. Planners will also be able to book private performances for corporate and association groups.
On stage, there are two available screens with front and back projection functionality, sized 78 x 32 feet and 48 x 32 feet.
For functions and trade shows, meanwhile, there is 110,000 square feet of exhibition space and eight breakout rooms.
During our tour we met with PALCCO’s artistic director, Leonardo Gasparini, who has previously conducted the Berlin Symphony. He told us that the La Traviata opera and Ghost musical are both scheduled for 2015.
Altogether, Gasparini anticipates 60 events in 2015, including three operas, two Broadway musicals, various international symphony concerts, and local cultural productions.
“The city is ready for a new cultural offering but we must keep in mind that most of the people who live here are not familiar with much of this type of culture,” explains Gasparini. “So we will facilitate programs that they can understand. We can’t force our vision of culture on people and tell them this is what is good.”
“And it’s not just a place for rich people,” adds Linares-Urcuyo. “It’s important that we’re available for the community, and that we’re part of the community, so there will always be a portion of seating that is very affordable.”
Linares-Urcuyo says he also expects to host up to 90,000 children a year for special classes where they can meet the local and visiting artists.
“There’s a saying that a child who holds a violin will never hold a gun,” he says. “So we want to contribute to the betterment of the community.”
All stage performances will have subtitles in English and Spanish, and there will educational content about specific performances provided via email and social media to those with reserved seats before the events.
“I think understanding the background of any performance always enhances the experience,” says Linares-Urcuyo.