European Union Pavilion at FIL Guadalajara 2023 by External Reference

The European Union (EU) is the Guest of Honor at the 37th edition of the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) in Mexico, and External Reference, a studio led by architect Carmelo Zappulla, has been tasked with designing the grand Pavilion that will be the epicenter of all EU activities under the motto “Building a Union of Cultures.”

Spanning 1,130 m², the pavilion has been designed to host the exceptional literary and artistic program of the EU which, through its participation, aims to strengthen its relations with Mexico and the entire region of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in an event that attracts over 800,000 people annually.

Image © External Reference Architects

It serves as a space for interaction and dialogue between the public and European culture, among professionals, authors, artists, guests, and visitors.

The main inspiration for the architectural design studio has been the values of sustainability, inclusion, digitalization, hospitality, and circular economy of the New European Bauhaus, an initiative aimed at creating beautiful, sustainable, and inclusive spaces.

Image © External Reference Architects

“The pavilion aims to make the user feel immersed in the unique identity of the European Union: a group of entities and figures that form a single organization and function as a whole,” emphasizes Zappulla, founder and director of External Reference.

Geometric shapes and primary colors, strategically used to differentiate the functionality of each space, combine vibrant colors that enhance the main meeting areas with subdued colors defining the reading and relaxation areas.


Simultaneously, the implemented chromatic language achieves unity within the extensive space and acts as an intuitive guide directing visitors through the exhibition journey.

The challenge for the design team was to generate cohesion and harmony in a very rich and complex installation that will be the stage for various literary manifestations (involving more than 70 authors from the 27 member states), cultural, and artistic expressions.

Axonometric view

The comprehensive events program has required the creation of different interconnected spaces: the European bookstore, a large central agora, a digital media library, an interactive cultural installation, two stages, and other spaces dedicated to exchange.

The pioneering studio in experiential design and material experimentation has created a pavilion that both surprises and welcomes visitors. Colorful geometric patterns are expressed in both the configuration and morphology of the space and the striking textile ceiling, composed of twenty-seven huge suspended elements that reference each of the EU member countries.

Axonometric view

In the heart of the pavilion, the interactive space is designed to represent the bridge between craftsmanship and technology. It reflects the intention to blend tradition with the contemporary, the local with the global, strengthening cultural and creative ties between Mexico and the European Union.

While utilizing traditional materials such as sarape fabric, evoking the country’s cultural heritage, it incorporates innovative elements like 3D-printed plants, exemplifying technological advancement today. These plant-shaped sculptures, designed by External Reference and produced by LaMáquina, are made with recycled plastic filament integrating PURE.TECH technology, composed of natural minerals that absorb CO2. Source by External Reference.

Logo European Union

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Architect: External Reference Architects

Project Director: Carmelo Zappulla

Project Managers: Regina García

Project Coordinator: Sebastián Amorelli

Project team: Carmelo Zappulla, Regina García, Sebastián Amorelli

Constructor: Kubico Temporal Architecture

Client: European Union

Area: 1,380 m2

Opening: November 25th 2023

Images: External Reference Architects, Courtesy of Labóh

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