THERE is the Palacio de Cristal inMadrid, Spain. The Museum of ModernArt in Wakayama, Japan. The AlternativeArt Center in Mexico City. The Villette inParis, France.And, by 2009, Costa Rica plans to havea cultural center to rival them all.La Aduana, a state-of-the-art, urbancultural center to be built in the old customsbuilding in downtown San José, withan estimated $20-million price tag, wasofficially presented to the public last weekby the Culture Ministry, the FrenchEmbassy and several other supportinginstitutions.“Projects such as this take us fartherthan a definition of a Latin American capitalcity; projects like this define us as a culturalcapital,” said Johnny Araya, mayor ofSan José.La Aduana will be home to educationalworkshops, art exhibits, cultural activitiesand science fairs. It will also feature bookstores,restaurants, a theater and an urbanplaza.“WE say it is urban because you’retalking about at least three neighborhoodsand a very committed city and mayor,”Culture Minister Guido Sáenz told TheTico Times.“This will be a center with multipleuses that will be a symbol of the greatcooperation among our citizens,” he added.“It’s the passion for culture, not just fromCosta Ricans but from all the participants,(that helped make the project possible).”The center will be constructed on thesite of the historic customs house of SanJosé, originally built in 1891 near the citycheckpoint for immigrants coming fromthe Caribbean port cities. It was declaredan historical landmark in 1980 and wasdesignated as public property in July 2004.“This was once a place where lots ofpeople came together to share (their culturalidentities),” Sáenz said. “This is aplace we want to be a magnet for youngpeople and anyone who wants to experienceculture.”THE main customs house also servedas an early 20th-century trading post forthe people of Costa Rica. Its brand-new,30-foot ceilings, recently completed as thefirst phase of the project, include skylightsand a network of brushed black steelrafters that support a speaker system anddetachable, theater-style lights.The customs building itself measures4,160 square meters, and is located on aplot of land totaling 16,268 square meters.The success of the project will dependon “the support of the state and working tobuild strategic alliances with internationaland national, public and private sectors,”according to the Culture Ministry.The ministry estimates that 70% of thenecessary funds will be provided by thegovernment, while the other 30% willcome from national, private and foreignsupport.Sáenz said the center will be able topay for most of its own maintenance andexpenses with revenue from rental of shopand restaurant space, underground parkingspaces and the installations for cultural,scientific and technological exhibitions.La Aduana is expected to be fully operationalby September 2009.