One of the most recurrent themes in the history of civilisations is the close link between their worldview – what they believe the world to be like- and their large scale architectural production. In particular, the Egyptians built gargantuan projects because they believed they were necessary to uphold and sustain their worldview. It was also their way of keeping eternal archives of their memory and knowledge, literally carved in stone, or through metaphoric and symbolic devices. Here are some of the parallels in attitude – updated for the 21st century – we have adopted for this project.
The Creative Dialogue between Good and Evil: Chaos and Order, walking the fine line of entropy:
the 3 paths that start all random and wiggly come together to form a more ‘ordered’ system as they approach the territory of the Pyramids, while keeping the freedom of movement of the visitors appropriately (apparently) infinite.
Adding Dimensions to unify the Forces of Nature (desert=2D, pyramids=3D, spacetime=4D, GEM=n-dimensional hyperspace)
Pleasing the Gods to feed the Masses/Pleasing the Tourists to feed the Masses:
The GEM offers Space for millions, where the Pyramids offered Volume for one.
Journey to the Afterlife / The Path to Knowledge:
Our entrenched Nile Park recalls the mythological journey in the rivers of the Underworld, looking for knowledge, education, leisure, and entertainment.
The Nile as the life-giving force of fertility / the Street as the locale for urban life:
The lack of a positive urban context within which to locate the museum complex has led us to create this urban context as the heart of the scheme.
The Nile as a link between Upper and Lower Egypt / the Museum as the urban/spatial/social link between different neighbourhoods:
The museum acts as a link between the broader urban context and the pyramids; it also acts as a social link between the museum’s visitors and the local community.
PRACTICAL APPROACH: THE SITE & THE WIDER SITE
We took the decision to redefine the site to better express the museum as a journey through the desert towards the powerful strength of the pyramids. The brief called for a “strong visual linkage between the New Museum site and the pyramids. establishing a kind of formal dialogue”; apart from the symbolic significance of these extraordinary structures, it makes sense from a logistic and commercial point of view to bring the two experiences as close together as possible. A fuller appreciation of Egypt’s history and heritage can then be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
We extended the site along the southwestern edge of the Shooting Club towards the Pyramids, and gave up a portion of the Cairo-Alexandria desert road frontage of the original site. The redefined site benefits from its situation on higher ground, a greater visibility from the road, and benefits from a more linear journey through the museum towards the Pyramids. The amended Shooting Club site, after being a barrier between the Museum and the Pyramids, now acts as a buffer between the highway and the GEM and benefits from an increase in land value as a result of its proximity to the Museum.
A greater flexibility of spaces and programming is possible within the proposed linear site, whilst enjoying maximized views towards the Pyramids and emphasising the chronological journey through ancient Egyptian culture.
Journey: The museum is conceived of as linear journey/route through the site towards the Pyramids. This journey is the Nile Park itself, with the ultimate destination being the Pyramids. This route is expressed as a trench or river bed, cut through the desert, revealing itself only as a meandering fertile gash in the arid landscape. This trench, being the spine of the complex, offers the visitor access to all the various elements of the museum during her journey, and encourages her to customise her experience, offering an infinite number of usage permutations.
Monumentality: The sheer scale of the programme poses the challenge of creating a scheme with a sufficient degree of monumentality while at the same time exercising restraint. The scheme cannot hope to compete with the pyramids in terms of historical significance: a lucid and symbiotic relationship between them is essential. This potential conflict is avoided and turned into complementarity because the scheme is perceived not as a volume, but as a void.
Rationality & Flexibility: The museum is a piece of the city, conceived as a honeycomb made up of similar and near identical units that can be added as required, particularly in the permanent exhibition area. The arrangement of the gallery modules solves the complex issue of chronological and hypertextual routes, while simultaneously allowing a free and flexible interchange between these prescribed routes. The conceptualisation of the exhibition modules as self-structured boxes suspended in the sea of sand, leaves space for future growth a through densification of the 3D grid.
Geometry: The 3 routes through the Nile Park magnetically associate with the pyramids as they draw closer to them. The permanent exhibition galleries gradually reveal themselves, suspended in the desert sand, increasing in number and density the closer they get to the Pyramids.Control: The scheme is designed to allow for a greater or lesser degree of control of entry in and aroundthe complex. The level of engagement with the public can vary according to needs and desires.