075 / 2016
The New Cyprus Museum
Hidden beneath the skin of the earth we find pots, artefacts and everything important for writing the history of our own past. On the skin of the earth we propose a large public park featuring interactive spaces for participative dialogue and decision-taking about our future. The New Cyprus Museum is about people, their discovery of the past and their vision of the future.
PHASE: International competition, 2016
SITE: Nicosia, Cyprus
CLIENT: Republic of Cyprus, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works
GROSS FLOOR AREA: 30.554 m2
ARCHITECTS: Ana Ábalos, Pablo Llopis
COLLABORATORS: María de Miguel, Álvaro Hidalgo
A new city living-room
The site immediately outside the old city wall at Paphos Gate has apparently always been a non-monumental area, just buildings such as a tannery service area, loading bays, campsite, hospital, etc. The future of this green hole outside the old city must necessarily now be defined by making it an integral part of the city’s new cultural district and a continuation of the municipal gardens.
We suggest extending the lush vegetation that characterises the municipal gardens and transforming the area into the largest park in the centre of Nicosia. An everyday park that welcomes the visitors and inhabitants of the old city from the south via the new civic and cultural corridor and from the east via Eleftheria square. A new built place where people can dialogue and help transform the existing open common ground into a vibrant, new city living-room destined to play a crucial role in the appreciation of their cultural heritage.
To do so, we propose an enormous park interspersed with interactive museum areas providing easy access to the knowledge conveyed by the archaeological finds brought to the surface, finds that offer an exciting glimpse of the vast world beneath our feet.
Today’s museums play an active role in the development of modern societies, but the real challenge facing all museums is how to attract visitors. The skin of the earth will be the dynamic, in-between space that transforms the park and the new Museum of Cyprus into a vibrant hub of culture and leisure beneath the shade of the trees.
The buildings in this archaeological urban park are sprinkled across the plot of land like the fragments of a pot in an excavation.
Repetitive, flexible, tree-like structures cast slanting shadows over recreational areas (the main entrance, restaurant, gift shop, library, educational areas and conference hall) and workspaces using the latest technology to analyse new excavation finds. Units can be rearranged or enlarged to suit future needs, just as new trees grow in a forest and new stones appear on a beach.
The double skin façades of each unit feature a changing vegetal, organic layer that enables the buildings to adapt to the seasons and their formal composition to adapt to the sunlight striking each façade.
The museum is built into the park floor. Reconstructed fragments of history, like excavation core samples, appear alongside the archaeological items on display. Physical and virtual spaces change according to the exhibitions underneath, enticing visitors into the exhibition rooms dug out of the earth that once contained the archaeological exhibits.
Visitors begin their journey through history inside the original building nestling naturally in an architecture of trees like a cabin in a forest. A staircase leads down into a world dug out between reinforced walls of rammed earth, revealing the different phases in the glorious history of Cyprus.
The permanent collection is arranged chronologically in five main thematic groups (Neolithic-Chalcolithic Period; Bronze Age; Cypro Period and Swedish Mission excavations; Hellenistic Period; and the Roman Period and the end of Antiquity). The circular route gives a view of history from two different angles: a chronological tour of all or part of the collection, and a transversal view of ancient societies through the art of ceramics and the worship of Aphrodite in Antiquity. This transversal approach provides a better understanding of the religion and socioeconomics of Cyprus in ancient times.
The temporary exhibition space leads directly to the hall and the handling area located to the southwest. Two large lifts link this area directly to the laboratories above and the storerooms below, enabling large items to be moved all around the exhibition, laboratory and storage areas in the building.
Creepers, canopies and caves
The different strata in the design are not only reminiscent of the natural process of digging deeper and deeper through layers of history but also permit feasible energy-saving strategies able to ensure maximum architectural and environmental quality and comfort, minimum costs, and cost-effective building management.
The underground exhibition rooms exploit the thermal mass of the surrounding earth to minimise changes in temperature and maintain the hygrothermal conditions necessary for the archaeological exhibits.
The buildings on the surface are high-tech and lightweight and equipped with passive systems that ensure comfortable conditions in the areas that people use most (recreational spaces, laboratories and offices): inverted umbrellas that gather rainwater for recycling; solar panel array; canopies that protect south-facing façades from the sun; double-skin façades covered in climbing plants that give workspaces privacy and keep them cool and shady; and rooftop panels that open automatically to generate cross ventilation during summer months.
This high-performance envelope makes no attempt to be a industrial modular system, the intention being to endow a combination of technology and habitability with a modular logic that maximizes the recyclability and reusability of the building components – thereby extending each building’s life and preventing a huge waste of resources.