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The famous Casa del Lago on Chapultepec Lake is today the Juan José Arreola Cultural Center. One of the most high profile of Cultural Centers operated by the National Autonomous University (UNAM), its point is to encourage and promote creativity and artistic collaboration.
Programs include those in music, theater, dance, cinema, literature, and visual arts. The Casa del Lago also offers space for reflection on contemporary issues and training. Made a Cultural Center in 1959, it opened as the UNAM cultural center at that time.
The story of the house begins in 1906 with a much grander project to rejuvenate much of Chapultepec Park. These plans included work to create the lakes, and to improve the landscaping throughout. All of the work was done in preparation for the centennial celebrations to come in 1910.
The building was begun as home for the Automobile Club of the time. Officially opened in 1908, by 1910 the centennial celebrations could take off in earnest. Independence had been won, but a Revolution war was yet to come.
Newly elected President, Francisco I. Madero took over the property as part of the Federal Government. The Automobile Club continued renting it and tending to the surrounding gardens. By 1915 though, the club had fallen back on their side of the contract and the property was again administered by the government. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until 1916 that the Park Directorate and Administration would be established.
In 1919, the first post-Revolutionary President, Venustiano Carranza used the former Automobile Club as a venue for his daughter’s 15th birthday. During the 1920s, the building was briefly the home of the Minister of the Treasury and Public Credit. He actually moved in and used the house as his private home. By 1929, the Biological Studies area, then under the Ministry of Agriculture and Development, established itself at the Casa del Lago. This department became part of the UNAM in 1930.
When nearly all of the UNAM moved to University City in 1953, the Casa del Lago was again vacant. It remained so until 1959. In September of that year, it opened again, this time with an exhibition of paintings, a dance performance and the writer, Juan José Arreola, its first coordinator.
An emblematic home for the Mexico City artistic establishment, the house has been the site of some of the most important cultural events of the past century.