Conceived as the new centrepiece of Nicosia’s cultural district, our proposal for the New Cyprus museum is a contextual response to the site’s rich historical, cultural, and ethnographic layering– creating an urban icon that is, at once, timeless in its architectural language, and innovative in its museographical approach.
At an urban level, the scheme recognises the need to establish a clear connection to the fabric of the city and the existing Cyprus Museum to the east, whilst integrating the adjacent riverside and surrounding parkland to the west. Acknowledging the complexity of the program, as well as the aspiration of interrelating the exhibition with the public functions of the building, the proposal is organised as a series of interweaving vaults of varying modular proportions that run along an east west axis. The scale, proportion, and modularity of these vaults provides a flexible space-planning solution, unifies the programme under one cohesive architectural language, and defines a clear spatial hierarchy throughout the project. Behind the thickness of its solid facade lies a rich choreography of light and shadow– defining spaces that, by virtue of their scale, proportion and materiality, will enhance and dignify the collection on display.
Framed by a courtyard that will define the entrance sequence along Nechrou Avenue, the existing structure that currently lies on site will serve as a critical element of the composition, as well as a preamble to the rich dialogue between old and new that resonates throughout the project.
In terms of the exhibition itself, the project recognises the importance of producing a coherent, readable narrative that will allow users to experience Cyprus’ rich art-historical chronology without imposing a strictly linear organisation. Exhibition halls are modulated along an east-west axis, yet incorporate large apertures that allow visitors to seamlessly move laterally between halls. In this way, the building breaks apart from linear organisational strategies, and encourages visitors to engage in a process of discovery. This allows them to produce their own interpretation of the exhibit and, by extension, of the building hosting it.
STRUCTURAL AND TECTONIC APPROACH
Not unlike many Roman-era buildings that can be found across the Mediterranean, our proposal is driven by the structural expression of the vault, a tectonic element that takes advantage of basic geometric principles as a means of achieving a highly efficient distribution of forces. Taking this tectonic principle as a starting point, the project’s structural and spatial approach is inspired by a type of minimal surface known as the “Scherk” surface: a self-supported system that locally minimizes its area through a network of bridging arches arranged in a modular checkerboard pattern. The building thus reinvents the archetypal interpretation of the vault, in a way that results in a new and unexpected architectural language. The use of “Scherk” vaults not only ensures that the transition between perpendicular planes occurs seamlessly and elegantly, but also minimizes the amount of material required for construction, provides clear spatial hierarchy and layering, and produces apertures that engulf the building in natural light.
In terms of materials, the project deliberately celebrates the use of limestone as a traditional method of Mediterranean construction. Our proposal explores innovative uses of stone by understanding the typical capacity and structural span of vaulted masonry formations, modulating the material to conform to the geometry of the Scherk surfaces to produce a self-supported structural system. The result is both functionally coherent and spatially expressive.
Client: Department of Public Works of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, for and on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus
Bldg. Area: 17,000 m2
Construction cost: €75,000,000
Status: 2 Stage International Design Competition
Architect: LUCA POIAN FORMS