New Cyprus Museum (Competition)
Architects: Constantinos Constanti, Thrasivoulos Karayiannis, Antonis Charalambous, Theodora Lymboura
The Exhibition at the centre of the design process
Time is a stream of events that flows perpetually through eternity. It is a never stopping clock. A string of moments that follow each other in seamless succession. The notion of historic periods is a convention created by us -humans- to better understand and classify the moments in time and the events that shaped the world. But in reality, the boundaries of history are vague while humans make the transition from one historic era to another.
The fluidity and continuity of time is transferred and expressed at the design of the museum itself.
The main part of the exhibition unfolds as a continuous narrative that is experienced in an uninterrupted course. The narration begins and ends at the same topographical point: The entrance Lobby. To produce a continuous and coherent narrative which embodies the essence of fluidity of Time and History, it was imperative that the route had to be experienced in a similar way. The body of the exhibition spaces is born from the ground and follows an upward movement. The inclination of the building allows a comfortable and smooth transition from the ground level of the Entrance Lobby to the upper level of the exhibition spaces, while at the same time creating public spaces at the level of the museum plaza. The form of the building -slim, simple and yet dynamic- provides a contemporary addition to the urban architectural fabric of the city.
The permanent exhibition is constructed around a narrative of time. The ‘Pendulum’ sculpture becomes the centre point of the visitor’s journey and the pole around which the exhibition unfolds. This artefact is a kinetic sculpture based on a repetition pattern. At specific time intervals, a sphere falls from the sculpture through a hole in the middle of a circular water surface. The regular repetition of the action emphasises on the notion of rhythm and consequently the passing of time. It is a pendulum of sorts.
The interaction of the visitor with the sculpture takes place at the very first and last part of his tour. This area of interaction is silent. No exhibits are on display. Instead, the visitor is invited to reflect at the meaning of time. At that very moment, topologically and mentally, the visitor is called to realise that he/she is part of the exhibition not just as a visitor, but as a participant in history. A history which is written at the time of “Present”. His time now will be registered and displayed as history in the museums of tomorrow. There are no exhibits here because the visitor’s own existence becomes the focus of the narration.
The visitor moves upwards and downwards -walking on very low inclination ramps- on a route that carries him through history, from the very first findings of the history in Cyprus, all the way to the early Byzantine times and back to the beginning of his tour. No stairs, rooms or obstacles intervene with the narrative.
While the exhibition maintains a linear presentation of history, its structure lies upon a bi-directional narrative. The visitor can choose either to observe all aspects of life represented in each historic period or follow the evolution and changes throughout history of a specific thematic route (for example the concept and beliefs around Death).
This continuous narrative is what eventually dictates the architectural form of the museum with the constant inclination of the exhibition spaces. This architectural choice is further used to highlight specific exhibits noted for their importance both as archaeological finds, as well as narrative elements that capture the imagination of the visitor: Hagia Irini Sanctuary figurines, the statue of Septimius Severus, the marble statue of Aphrodite, a reconstructed part of the Choirokoitia Neolithic Settlement. These exhibits become key navigation elements as the visitor transitions from one stage of the route to another.
Exterior Shell of Exhibition Spaces
The southern walls of the Exhibition Spaces create a solid protective screen which shells the Exhibition from the direct southern sunlight. On the contrary, the northern sides of the museum are comprised of glass, which allows a diffused ambient daylight to provide natural lighting to the interior. This contrast between the two opposite surfaces also creates a sense of direction towards the Plazas at the northern façade, to which the building reveals itself. Thus, the museum not only provides visual contact to the exhibits from the plaza, but manages to incorporate them into the urban environment.
Entrance Lobby/ Cafeteria
The Entrance Lobby functions as the most instrumental space of the museum in managing pedestrian flow. By being at the core of the Museum Plaza, it provides a visible and identifiable orientation point which concentrates the movement of visitors on the ground level and disperses them towards the Exhibition Spaces at the upper level. Design wise, the entrance lobby is formed by a volume which seemingly supports the weight of the exhibition spaces. At the centre of intersection, the heart of the lobby-the ticket office and cloakroom-stand both as a service point and an island around which the visitors move freely. And around which the gift shop becomes a part of the natural flow of movement.
The cafeteria is found at the topographical extension of this movement, functioning independently but in direct relation to the museum. It is located in-between the museum and the conference hall lobby while at the same time it manages to address the wider area of the public plazas. This area is designed in two levels to be able to accommodate different events simultaneously.
The public space of the site is addressed in two complementary scales. At the urban scale, a plaza is formed adjacent to the cultural axis avenue and at the local scale a museum plaza is placed by the Pedieos River.
The first constitutes the main centre public place of the wider fabric and it becomes a dynamic opening towards the city. A large sculpture in the middle of the square is the main reference point which could potentially develop to be an orientation point of the city (‘The image of the city’, Kevin Lynch). Within this context, the existing restored building functions as an Information Centre for the wider area.
The museum plaza is formed at a lower level and is subtly protected from the urban strain. It manages to direct the flow of the visitors to the lobby which is located at its centre. In parallel it generates an area towards the boundary with the river which functions as an archaeological theme park. The park is designed based on a grid of 8 by 8 metres as an interpretation of the main excavation grid and it is used for educational activities.
The wall on Chelonos street provides protection to the permanent exhibition and to the laboratories from the direct southern sunlight, while at the same time it directs the visitors to the Plaza, where the Museum reveals itself in a scenographic way behind the wall. The Placement of Bus stops on Tziabacharlal Nechrou Avenue, provides a view to the scenographic setting created with the restored building in the foreground and the Museum unfolding in the background.
Energy and Environmental Design
Particular attention has been paid to the orientation of the building, which together with a suitable choice of materials, insulation, coatings, and shadows will contribute to energy savings.
Aim for the greatest possible use of natural lighting, and other renewable energy sources, which together with the passive cooling system installation will help to minimize energy and operating costs of use.
The advantages of the above will be strengthened by installing Central Facility Building Management System (BMS) that will enable the rational planning of all systems and facilities of the building.