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029.03.Gran Museo de Egipto. El Cairo, Egipto, 2003

  • Localidad: El Cairo, Egipto
  • Año: 2003
  • Estado: Concurso
  • Fotografías:
  • Modelo 3D:
  • Area: 461.923m²
  • Instalaciones:
  • Tipo: Cultura
  • Autores: Juan Carlos Castro, Carles Muro, Lluis Ortega
  • Colaboradores: David Domínguez

0. Introduction

The ambition behind the creation of the Grand Egyptian Museum requires an equal ambition in the architectural response.

Our proposal tries to not only provide an adequate and professional response to a specific site and a specific programme, but also to reflect on the nature of the contemporary museum and propose a new form of organization which is both attentive to contemporary culture and to the specific nature of such a unique collection.

1. A new form of organization

The traditional museum is made of a series of rooms linked by more or less complex route: the rooms come first, sometimes from an existing building, and the route comes next. Modern Architecture tried to reverse the concept and proposed the construction of a route along which the collection would be displayed. The most radical and known examples are probably those of Le Corbusier’s Museum of Unlimited Growth and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York. Both of them are based on the spiral: Le Corbusier’s proposal grows from the centre and unfolds on the plane and Wright’s museum is stretched from the centre to unfold into a three-dimensional world. They both, though, still refer to a linear idea of space and, therefore, of time.

We have tried to go one step beyond Frank Lloyd Wright, almost 50 years later, and propose a system of spirals in space which offer the visitor different routes and combinations. The size and shape of the Grand Egyptian Museum will be decided by each visitor.

The core of the Museum will consist of five spiral ramps, one for each of the themes (The Land of Egypt, Kingship and State, Man Society and Work, Religion and Culture, Scribes and Knowledge). Each ramp will have different conditions (of length, area, etc.) in order to accommodate the collection, and different envelopes (which will be like vases –strongly identified by their distinctive shape crossing all the slabs. They will all have a different but gentle slope (less than 5%) so that every piece in the collection is accessible for the handicapped. They will all have nine turns except for the Kingship and State and the Culture, Scribes and Knowledge vases –which will only have eight- each turn corresponding to a different period of the Egyptian civilisation.

The space in-between the vases –which has a different shape on each level due to the different shape of the envelopes- will provide a chronological view of the Egyptian culture where the visitor can choose to expand on a given aspect by entering the corresponding vase. The richness of this always changing space will be enhance by the presence of deep light wells. Direct access to a specific time in the history of Egypt is provided by a system of large lifts.

Horizontal movements provide thus the picture of a specific period (the Chronological Museum) while vertical movements provide an in-depth exploration of a theme through time (the Thematic Museum).

What is new is that each visitor can decide on a different “menu” –which always allows for improvisation and change- through the superimposition of both systems in the route. The interaction between visitors’ interests and the structure of the Museum is a device that will allow for different re-enactions of the Egyptian culture. The building is a three-dimensional interface between the collection and the visitors.

A few specific routes (for children, for the hurried visitor, etc.) could be decided in collaboration with the Museum’s staff with the introduction of a parallel system of ramps and escalators and clear signage.

3. Structure and Programme

The collection is understood as a treasure buried in a safe concrete box. The decision to have an underground museum refers not only to the idea of protection suggested by the richness and uniqueness of its contents but also to the search for protection from the sun and climate and a strong –but subtle- relationship with the existing landscape.

The space in-between the virtual envelope of the five spirals of the collection and the outer box houses the rest of the programme.

In section, those parts of the programme which have to allow for access of large numbers of visitors (such as the Convention Centre or the educational facilities) are placed on the upper levels, closer to the entrance; and those which are less public (storage, servicing, etc.) are situated on the lower levels.

The structure, formed mainly by large Vierendeel beams resting on the longer side of the box and the shells, provides another criteria for the organization of the programme. Those activities that do not require a very high ceiling height (such as research, conservation and administration) will inhabit the space generated by the beams, while the high-section-programmes (Convention Centre, etc.) will be placed on the floors supported by the beams. The spacing of the beams will depend on the height required by these facilities.

4. Access

The building , which is located on the edge of the desert, tries to take advantage of an existing change in level.

Entering the building will be like slipping under the desert and arriving in a large hall full of activity (shops, information points, cafeterias, etc.) from which five big circular holes have been cut out. From the entrance hall one can have a first glimpse of each of the spiral ramps that host and display the different themes in the collection and choose how to start your way down.

Direct access to the different underground levels (the choice of a specific historical period) is also provided through several sets of large capacity lifts.

A series of patios and skylights of changing section will be strategically placed in order to allow air and light to reach specific parts of the programme.

5. Open-air exhibition and landscaping

The structural bays of the building are reflected on the roof providing a first guiding for the distribution of water and strong planting (palm trees and other local, resistant, species) and thus shaping the Nile Park, which is understood as a contemporary form of oasis that opposes the nature of the desert.

The open-air exhibition areas are organized in a manner similar to that of the Museum programme, offering the visitor a wide range of choice. One can choose to cross the different parks suggested in the brief or to follow a contour line.

The Nile Park can be accessed either from the Dunal Park or from the entrance hall, which thus becomes the interface between the main collection and the open-air exhibition.

The building aims at disappearing into a modified landscape from eye level, leaving the powerful relationship between the pyramids and the desert almost unaltered.

In a time of air travelling and satellite images a new big mat covering part of the desert will be appearing when one is detached from the ground, initiating a new dialogue –at another scale- with the Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian civilisation.


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