New Cyprus Museum
The scheme develops a daring dialogue with the city, by proposing a distinctive cultural landmark. The geometry and scale of the surrounding urban artefacts’ prescribe the shape of the building: a triangle, which reflects the geometry of the site, the park, and the bastions. The museum is shaped as an austere sandstone prism, inspired by the very characteristic building material of Nicosia. A hovering triangular bastion, perforated by long atria and generous lighting slits, that hosts and protects its precious exhibits.
The vegetation on the park and the riverside underline the need for continuity of the landscape in the given plot and determine the intervention’s strategy: carving and hovering. The Museum’s entrance emerges as the nodal point of densified movements. The flat plot is transformed into an open valley, on the gradual approach towards the river level, aiming to attract people from the park, the river, and the city. The Museum’s corpus stands sur pilotis on a gentle slope, providing a shaded, inviting destination for public life: an emerging “valley”, an urban densifier -amidst a welcoming green ambient.
A 40-meters-diameter cylindrical transparent hall is the core around which are organized both the visitors’ outdoor movements and a new, closed public space, completely free of ticketing. Directly connected to the restaurant, the conference hall, the educational programme spaces and the temporary exhibitions area, the enclosed ground floor space forms an engraved, flowing, welcoming functional entity, complementary to the new “valley”.
Entering through the hall one ascends to the central foyer; a vantage point offering multiple visiting options, organized in easily discernible open wings. Around the circular foyer visual corridors reveal an ascending “interior landscape” of exhibits. This synoptic view of the museum is extended to the comprehensive sections of the exhibition, which further include various unique, strategically placed exhibits. Visitors may select a path either by moving in a one-way circular route or by choosing specific destinations, radially arranged around the foyer. The exhibition is arranged in thematic units that unfold through a chronological narrative, along an ascending path that reaches a peak at the end of antiquity, enhanced with the seminal exhibition on Aphrodite’s cult. Rest areas facing vertical openings on the building’s skin offer visual escapes throughout, while a break is offered at a strategically located café, thus relieving museum fatigue. Returning to the foyer through a sloping bridge one becomes aware of the richness of the Museum’s stored collection, part of which is selectively displayed in an open-storage showcase along the wall. The visit ends with thematic units of major importance presenting moments of the rich history of Cypriot archaeology, while an open-air glyptothèque offers a supplementary aspect of the collection. This is apparently not the only way to install the works. The architectural parti supports a multiple visit strategy and accommodates the demands and particularities of the collection, allowing for the support of other configurations, both as a strategy for growth and flexibility over time and for the inevitable changes that will come while working on the project with the curatorial team.
The permanent exhibition comprises two distinct narratives; a chronological and a thematic one. The prehistoric period occupies a darker-lit area because of the special lighting needs of the exhibits. The historic period is exposed under soft natural light coming from the ceiling. The thematic narrative looks at all angles of Cypriot archaeology and focuses mainly on important thematic units; the history of the scripts; the worship of Aphrodite, the sanctuary of Ayia Eirini, and underwater archaeology. Our museological design proposes three more, yet complementary, permanent exhibitions: 1.The “GARDEN OF SCULPTURES” exhibition, situated at the public space opposite of the Municipal Park, exhibits exact copies of Cypriot statues found in museums abroad. 2.“A MUSEUM’S BACKSTAGE” unveils the unseen, yet vital, world of a museum in a Permanent Interactive Exhibition, housed in the old listed building and connected to the museum’s Temporary Exhibitions’ space -after its restoration in the second phase of the project. 3.The OPEN GLYPTOTHEQUE, features objects that offer an alternative narrative on the development of sculpture on the island, currently housed mostly in the outdoor spaces of the existing museum. Should future needs require an expansion of the permanent exhibition, this space may be enclosed, delivering 1700m2 in exhibition use. Additional expandability of 1300m2 may be achieved at the lower level of the Department of Antiquities -by moving the offices to a mezzanine above the second level- or even further by a wing extension in the distant future.
Above the open glyptothèque, the inclined prism of the museum allows for the insertion of an additional upper level, that hosts the laboratories, the museum’s administration offices, the library, as well as the largest part of the Department of Antiquities. Independently accessed, these entities are structured around spacious atria and elongated slits, while the elevated library has an open view towards the river. A large part of the laboratories’ façade is visible through the circular foyer, thus making them participate in the museum’s life.
The clarity of the circulation and the functional composition of the supporting underground level stems from the geometric clarity of the whole. The two main storage spaces occupy triangular areas while the mechanical equipment is installed at the northern boundary and in-between the large triangle and the parking area. The latter is composed of two parts -ultimately unified through phases A and B.
The principle directing the structural design of the Museum is the seismic isolation of the superstructure, so as to protect exhibits against seismic hazard. Isolation also favours the construction of the superstructure as one entity, without expansion joints, relaxing the potential stresses by thermal fluctuations. The design’s aspiration is to provide a structurally adequate building, fulfilling the inherent peculiarities of the architectural form: non-symmetric geometry, discontinuities in plan, long spans and cantilevers, and open ground “soft” floor of a considerable height. The selected bearing structure is a steel construction based on reinforced concrete piers through triple friction pendulum isolators. The demanding steel structural system has already been calculated, and therefore the sizes of all structural elements seen in our drawings will not need to be enlarged. Specifically: The superstructure’s floor diaphragm is formed by robust steel I-beams of varying height, spanning the considerable distance between the supports. Secondary transverse I-beams integrate the floor. The roof lays on welded cross-shaped steel columns, fixed on the floor diaphragm. The main steel girders, which span the North-South direction, are tailor-made and of a triangular hollow section. Perpendicular secondary latticed beams follow the pattern of the saw-tooth clerestories. The cylindrical entrance hall is rigidly connected to the superstructure and seismically isolated at the concrete basement. Steel columns on its periphery are bound at the top with a steel ring. The basement is made out of reinforced concrete on a slab foundation, incorporating the pile-heads of the piers’ foundation.
Solar energy from photovoltaic panels will cover approximately 40% of the electrical demand, geothermal systems will cover 20% of the cooling and heating demand, and high efficiency air-cooled heat pumps will cover the rest. Air handling units will be installed in plant rooms within the height of the floor steel trusses. Being adjacent to the respective spaces they need short ducting network. Storm rain collected in underground tanks will cover irrigation and other water needs. The Museum will be shielded by water mist fire protection system.
The building volume is elevated above the ground as a canopy pierced by atria that offer natural light and draw up warm air masses. Westward summer winds will be enriched with humidity by the transpiration of specially planted vegetation and open water surfaces with fountain jets. The overground volume is naturally lit through north facing saw tooth clerestories. The roof design supports photovoltaic panels on the south facing sides of the clerestories and collects rainwater. The artificial sandstone building’s skin forms an insulated cladding with pivoting louvers, shading double glazed window openings.
The proposal offers four different, yet complementary, entities of landscaping: THE TOUCH AND SCENT GARDEN, a sensory garden with fragrant, aromatic plants and herbs, allows for an alternative way of exploring the qualities of the Mediterranean flora and its use in the local everyday life, adjacent to the “Garden of Sculpture”. THE LIVING WATER FEATURE, a combination of hydrophytes, hydrophilic and aquatic plants enhance the aesthetic qualities of the central water pond at the old listed building’s backyard. THE SINKING GARDEN improves microclimatic conditions in the parking zone. The existing row of Ficus trees is complemented with Jacarandas, creating an aesthetically pleasing and lush “barrier”. As the ground slopes down towards the entrance of the Museum, strips of groundcovers with contrasting foliage colouration direct the visitor to the entrance level. The LANDSCAPE ZONE across the Museum Restaurant complements the qualities of Pedieos River; organic strips of ornamental grasses interrupt the linearity of narrow water features and sporadic clusters of fruit trees such as Citrus.
Cyprus; floating on the open sea. A warm, golden stone, cradle of a unique cultural wealth -over the course of millennia. New Cyprus Museum: A fossilized, stone leaf, floating on its green field: receptive and protective, at the same time. Receptive to the sun, protective by its shadow. Receptive to its green, public field, protective of its golden, valued exhibits. Warm incubator of Nicosia’s modern life, radiant showcase of Cyprus’s ancient wealth.