CYPRUS ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
Location: Cyprus – Nicosia
Project Size: 21.000 m²
In an era where digital and complex architectural forms and concepts seem to be thriving due to the inexhaustible technological means of representation (and influences due to the internet), it would be easy to deviate from the symbolic and sensitive approach to which history, heritage, tradition and identity greatly contribute in such theme projects.
We strongly believe that the New Cyprus Museum should be representative of Cyprus’ historical and archaeological heritage (with reference to the different eras, artifacts and materials they represent) and that it should also represent Nicosia’s architectural and urban heritage, instead of creating another ‘universal’ trend of architectural concept that is not representative of the context (historical, architectural, cultural and urban) it is in.
This symbolic inspiration is projected and conceptualized architecturally by reflecting upon the following interrelated themes:
HERITAGE - historical, archaeological, architectural, urban
HISTORY - projecting the different eras in time
ARCHAEOLOGY - exposing findings and artifacts
ARCHITECTURE - form, volume, materials
URBANISM - relation to nearby historical Venetian walls
LANDSCAPING - relation with surrounding park vegetation and
A modern (in means) but historical (in contents) museum should give emphasis and be built on its historical reason of existence, which in this case is none other than the symbolic reference to the archaeological findings of the different periods in time.
This symbolism (of the different eras) is exhibited in the thematic exhibitions, but it is also metaphorically reflected in the basic symbolical notions of the new concept:
1.0 HERITAGE TRANSFORMED INTO ARCHITECTURE
The archaeological excavated tombs (rectangular box shaped voids within a grid like plan) and the simplified breakdown of the anthropomorphic picrolite figurine (cross like shape broken down to two rectangles perpendicularly juxtaposed one on top of the other) act as the base for the conceptual evolution of the form and masterplan of the museum concept.
1.2 The materials used in the project (copper, stone, metal, wood…) reflect the different eras of the Cyprus archaeological history and the materials of the excavated artifacts.
This concrete promenade elevates itself from the ground and wraps itself around the whole site, allowing the visitor to walk outside and around the different functions and buildings (representing the different eras through the intermediate of their material cladding), while still on the site of the museum.
Hence this promenade becomes a historical ‘journey’ just like the walk one can have on the Venetian walls surrounding the old town of Nicosia and overlooking the modern city, giving it its unique urban context and planning.
Technically it also acts as a protective ceiling covering the ground floor pathway and the private functions of the museum such as the laboratories which are only to be entered by the staff of the museum.
1.4. The columns of Cypriot archaeological sites are reflected and symbolized in the structural pillars of the elevated concrete promenade that wraps itself around the entire site of the New Cyprus Museum.
1.5 The only historical and listed building on site may be insignificant in size compared to the immensity of the new project, but gains great importance through its historical heritage in relation with the theme of the new museum.
The listed historical building acts as the opening curtain act to history through its main entrance function (information and ticketing) clearly predisposing the visitor for what he/she is about to visit/experience.
It also becomes a symbolical, architectural and aesthetical ‘mirror’ image of the old Cyprus museum on the opposite plot of land.
2.0 HERITAGE TRANSFORMED INTO URBAN LANDSCAPING
2.1. The Tripoli Bastion is symbolically represented by the arrow like shape of the concrete promenade in the North East corner of the project.
This reference to the historical Venetian walls, bastions and moat (once flooded by water) is symbolized by shallow extents of water basins which are also a prolongation of the decked landscaped paths from the riverbed to the West side of the site.
2.2 The vegetal landscaping parameter of the project was considered as very important and a primary concern due to three factors:
Primarily because the park to the North of the site of the Museum is a major urban feature and contributor to the green aspect of the city which suffers greatly from the lack of parks and trees in general.
Second, the adjacent riverbed dense vegetation and trees to the West side of the site is also an influential factor that was voluntarily extended to the landscaped areas of the New Museum by decked pathways to the extent of which custom made designed benches are repeatedly situated, providing contemplation and relaxation areas for the visitor.
Last, but not least, the symbolic input of historical and traditional Cypriot trees and plants such as cypress trees, olive trees and various local wild shrubs, add to the Cypriot character of the project.
3.0 SPECIFIC ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES
3.1 PERMANENT EXHIBITIONS
Although the layout and space for each period in time of the exhibitions has not been defined and because their differences in size and quantities (regarding exhibits) may vary, the layout of the thematic spaces has been conceptualized in a polyvalent and flexible way by the means of mobile separation panels to define the space and area required for each, while at the same time offering the possibility and flexibility for modification and fluidity depending on how and what is to be exhibited.
Specific mobile ‘sound and vision’ booths have been conceived in order to offer mini viewings in fully occulted environments to visitors.
The library’s mirror cladding has been conceptualized as such for two reasons:
Primarily, it aesthetically accentuates its individual function (as it will also be operating independently of the opening hours of the New Museum) by implementing a different material to accentuate its independence.
Last but not least, the library mirror façade symbolically and metaphorically becomes the mirror of civilization, culture and heritage, as do the contents of its books.
5.1 OFFICES OF ADMINISTRATION AND SUPPORT STAFF OF THE MUSEUM
5.2 OFFICES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ANTIQUITIES
These two entities are related in the sense that both the Offices of the Department of Antiquities and the Offices of Administration and Support Staff of the Museum have to do with archaeology, history, culture and heritage.
Hence the deliberate option to integrate them as two extension wings of the existed listed building on site, keeping the same volumes and proportions (openings and roof inclinations) but with modern materials and technology equipment specifications, resulting from the functions necessitated.
Their exterior metal grid fence acting as a vegetal façade to the North, becomes an interior exhibit corridor of the New Museum where the back-lit metal grid acts as a source of light, on which art can be hung and exhibited.
Although the laboratories are a private function (as they are to be accessed only by the staff and only via the staff entrance) and their access to the public must be restricted, we strongly believe that they could have a very educational purpose in the sense that their activities (conservation and processing of archaeological findings) could be observed by students and interested parties in order to educate them as to the whole process of their activities.
This has been achieved by creating a separate, independent and private wing entity, which encloses all the laboratories under the roof of the concrete promenade ribbon which encloses them.
All laboratories have a blind concrete façade cladded with wooden strips giving them a singular identity as an entity, blocking the view and creating a visual barrier from alongside the South East façade of Chilonos avenue.
On the South West façade (where they are protected by direct sunlight due to the overhanging concrete promenade ribbon which covers them) they have a partly optional glazed facade (regulated by louvres) which permits partial viewing of their work and contents from their exterior only.
Three parameters had to be taken into consideration for the underground parking spaces:
Primarily, the strict restriction for the underground parking spaces not to be situated under the New Museum.
Second, the deliberate concept intention not to expand horizontally underground so as to permit a maximum garden space in the site, linking it with the nearby park and riverbed landscaped areas.
Finally the deliberate intention of not destroying whatever landscaped areas will be created in Phase A to dig up and construct the two underground levels of Phase B.
Hence the decision of superposing three identical underground parking lots of 100 spaces, whereby shell completion of all three levels will be pre-constructed from Phase A while at the same time respecting the budget restrictions of this phase.