Winning entry for the international architectural competition to design the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza.
site model showing museum interior; image by Richard Davies All information and images courtesy of heneghan.peng.architects.
heneghan.peng.architects are the designers behind the winning entry for the GEM. This competition attracted 1557 designs from 83 countries, most likely the largest global architectural competition in history.
exterior day rendering by Archimation
The Grand Museum of Egypt, which is to be located at the first desert plateau outside Cairo, between the great Pyramids of Giza and Cairo, is described as the largest museum of Egyptian artefacts in the world and one of the largest museums in the world. The Museum is envisaged as a cultural complex of activities devoted to Egyptology and will include a conference facility, library and multimedia facilities.
A complicated and demanding brief required the resolution of a diverse range of activities and support services, meshing the needs of public and private, tourist and academic, museum and conference visitors. There are 30,000m2 of exhibition space and an 800 person auditorium.
4.8 million visitors per year necessitates a clear and fluid sense of movement, while providing the same quality of experience, to all, whether old or young, abled or disabled, as they ascend the Grand stair, guiding the visitors into the world of the Pharaohs.
The Other GEM
While the primary role of the New Grand Egyptian Museum is as a repository of ancient artefacts, the facility has another role at the urban and social level.
The 50 hectare site contains a wide range of gardens that provide park facilities for the local community and visitors. The GEM also houses an 700 person auditorium and smaller meeting and theatre. The intention is that these facilities would provide local facilities on the west side of Cairo and also expand the museum into a centre of learning and not just a repository.
These diverse needs placed an onus on the design to manage the visitor and security requirements while encouraging local visitors to the GEM. The buildings and landscape are completely integrated so that the visitor experience is one of passing through various layers from exterior to interior. The Museum itself is developed around the premise that the key artefact, the Pyramids, is beyond the building, connected visually.facade detail model; image by Richard Davies
GEM Main Facade
The main facade of the Grand Egyptian Museum will be the Translucent Stone Wall. One challenge of the site was to engage with the Great Pyramids without competing visually with them. However the importance of the Museum demands that it have its own distinctive identity. By creating a new translucent stone cliff face to the desert plateau, a strong singular identity for the Museum is created.
The facade surface is delicately fractured and structured by a Sierpinski fractal pattern, simple in concept but uses its’ scale and simplicity for its’ power and creates a structurally efficient lightweight system.
By day the façade forms the plateau edge, its surface delicately fractured and structured by geometry. At night the Translucent Wall echoes the precision and glow of the glass-like polished surface of stone veneer which once covered the Pyramids.
The 50 hectare site for the Grand Museum of Egypt is located within 2km of the Pyramids. The masterplanning for the site unites the Pyramids site with the museum in a visual axis which is embedded in the geometrical structuring of the site. The museum becomes part of an existing monumental reading of the landscape mediating between desert plateau and Nile valley. Through a series of topographic manipulations the landscape folds, rises and drops to conceal these support buildings. They include two restaurants, staff facilities, cafes, ticketing buildings and the large conservation and energy centre complex .
Urban extension and UNESCO world heritage site
Its is proposed that the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Pyramids in Giza would extend its borders to incorporate the museum site and that This extension is supported architecturally by the masterplanning.
GRAND MUSEUM OF EGYPT
THE SITE: Between the Modern Complexities of Cairo and the Ancient Culture of the Pyramids
Three significant elements organise the New Museum within the site:
- The Plateau Edge, which divides the site into higher and lower sections.
- The View towards the Pyramids.
- The Cairo-Alexandria Approach.
ARCHITECTURAL PROPOSAL: Architecturalizing the Face of the Plateau
The proposal for the Grand Egyptian Museum begins by forming a new ‘edge’ to the Plateau, by creating a gentle slope as a thin veil of translucent stone structured by fractal geometry; opening and closing like foldings within the desert sand. As seen from Cairo, this newly inscribed surface of translucent stone constructs a dynamic identity; yet from within the museum, this surface traces a new visual trajectory towards the Pyramids. The wall of the museum can be understood as a rhythm of structural (physical) and spatial (effect-ive) foldings within the Plateau face, architecturalizing and intensifying its timeless surface.
BETWEEN THE SPACE OF THE PYRAMIDS: Relationship between the Museum and the Pyramids
The museum occupies a void within a 3-dimensional frame inscribed by a set of visual axes from the site to the three Pyramids. In plan, the lines that structure the museum are traced along these same visual lines. In section, the museum is structured along the ascent from the entrance and its parks to the Plateau level.
plan of gallery level © heneghan.peng.architects
LOOKING TO CAIRO: Relationship between the Museum and Cairo
The New Museum is located at the first desert plateau outside Cairo, between the Pyramids and Cairo. It acts at the intersection between Modernity and Antiquity, literally redirecting the traveler from the modernity of Cairo and Alexandria to the Ancient Heritage of the Egyptians. Urbanistically, the museum is an ‘inscription’, inscribing the point at which the visitor changes direction from the city towards the Pyramids. The museum traces a new profile for the Plateau without competing with the Pyramids, utilising its’ siting and length to operate within the horizontal flows so indicative of modern vision and movement.
THE FIFTH FAÇADE: A New Horizon
The New Museum is sited at the intersection of two cones of vision, the View to the Pyramids and the View to Cairo. The View to the Pyramids is inscribed into the structural lines of the museum. The View to Cairo is traced by the path of the Nile Park which extends from the Dunal Park at the Plateau level, across the folds in the Roof and inscribed into the lines that define the Piazza as it extends to the city.
The structural folds that form the roof extend the dunal landscape of the site, maintaining the line of the desert plateau whilst constructing and spatialising a new horizon to view the city of Cairo.
SCULPTING WITH LIGHT: Movement Voids
From the scale of the site to the scale of the display case, light carves and defines the spaces of the new Museum Complex, from its Open-Air System of parks to its precisely controlled environments of artifacts.
Two Bands of Light divide the site into three bands:
- Lower Plateau: Infrastructural area to the road side
- Ascent to Plateau: Cultural area of the GEM
- Upper Plateau: Natural area of the Dunal Park.
Light excavates the primary systems of movement through the plateau,
The light-filled Grand Staircase,
The Void of the Translucent Stone Wall,
The Visual Causeway
The Digital Streams: Light voids that carve through the plateau to be occupied as needed by infrastructure.
THE PIAZZA/SCULPTURE COURT
The Piazza is an space of gathering and exchange that begins the transition from the outside to the inside drawing visitors from the entrance forecourt to the lower level of the entrance lobby The Piazza is an active space both at night and during the day remaining active even when the museum/conference facilities are closed.
plan of gallery level © heneghan.peng.architects
Extending the transition from outdoor space to museum and conference, the lobby is an in-between space that is a continuation of the Piazza’s exteriority into the planted shaded space of the lobby. The Nile Park flows through the lobby further integrating the exterior into the museum’s interior.
THE GRAND STAIRCASE: The Chronological Route
The Light-filled Grand Staircase ascends from the lobby to the permanent exhibition galleries on the top floor stopping off at special exhibitions, conservation workshops, temporary exhibition, and Archaeological Main Storage. The staircase is the chronological route within the museum, culminating in the view of the pyramids at the top of the stair. An identifiable reference point, the Grand Staircase allows visitors to easily navigate this vast collection.
THE GALLERIES: Hyper-textual nodes of Display Itineraries
The permanent exhibition areas on the top floor are organised in five thematic bands within the structure constructed by the visual axes to the pyramids, the sixth band being the chronological route of the grand stair. Hyper-textual nodes|Sculpture Garden Courts provide primary cross-movement between the thematic bands. The structural roof foldings follow the spatial organisation of the thematic bands; controlled light is brought in through the roof folds. A clear organisation is provided to a large space yet still allowing flexible modes of display.
The hyper-textural Nodes|Sculpture garden courts, which act as points of reference for the navigation of the collection also operate as rest-points for the visitor. One such point of reference is the court dedicated to Tutankhamun, Tutankhamun Light Court is a triangular cut into the building that registers on the facade the importance of the collection inside. In certain areas the floor is excavated to allow the visitor to drop down into special rooms under the galleries where special exhibits occur.
Paradoxically, the success of technological integration is its eventual disappearance-invisibility. In order to mesh technology into the new museum, technology is transformed into an architectural element; in this case into digital streams that operate spatially between the spatial bands that define thematic galleries. The walls that define the digital streams become the primary technology infrastructure element in the galleries supporting the interactive display requirements of individual vitrines.
THE GRAND EGYPTIAN MUSEUM
is not a singular museum in the traditional sense of the museum, It is constructed as a complex of different activities which contribute to a cultural environment that is centred about Egyptology By weaving different navigation routes through the complex, the world of ancient Egypt can be explored in different modes and levels. The museum is both a repository of cultural artifacts and an interactive cultural resource.
Client: Technical Committee
Ministry of Culture, Egypt
Structural, Civil Engineering, Traffic, Facades: Arup,
Building Services, IT, Security, Fire: Buro Happold
Cost: Davis Langdon
Design Team Management: Davis Langdon Schumann Smith
Landscape: West 8
Lighting: Bartenbach Lichtlabor,
Model Photography: Richard Davies