Digging deep in Cyprus

Nick Myall
08 May 2017

A radical ‘floating’ archaeological museum, that will protect existing historic remains, has been planned for Cyprus

Pilbrow & Partners has unveiled designs for a stunning new ‘floating’ archaeological museum in Nicosia, Cyprus, to sit above and shroud a live archaeological dig.

The innovative plans, submitted as part of an open international competition for a new museum in the Cypriot capital, invert the brief by moving the proposed site of the museum to The Hill of Agios Georgios, which is currently earmarked as the site for a new House of Representatives building.

However, after extensive archaeological remains were found on The Hill of Agios Georgios during early construction phases of the new House of Representatives, plans for the new building were indefinitely postponed, leaving the parliament without a site for its new accommodation.

By proposing to locate the new archaeological museum on The Hill of Agios Georgios, Pilbrow & Partners’ plans allow for the creation of a dynamic 21st century archaeological museum sited within the context of a live archaeological dig.

At the same time, the radical proposal addresses the need for a new site for the House of Representatives, which Pilbrow & Partners propose relocating onto the site previously earmarked for the archaeological museum. This site on Tziabacharlala Nechrou offers a large flat site, without archaeological remains, immediately adjacent to the existing House of Representatives.

Fred Pilbrow, Pilbrow & Partners founding partner, said: “Our proposal solves the problem of finding a new site for the House of Representatives, while at the same time completely transforming the potential of the new museum. We think the competition site for the archaeological museum is in fact much better suited to the new House of Representatives as a new building on the Tziabacharlala Nechrou site could perhaps link to and reutilise elements of the old House of Representatives.

“Importantly, the proposal also opens up an entirely new paradigm for the archaeological museum in the 21st century. Our plan puts visitors and staff in close connection with a real and ongoing archaeological investigation, serving both to contextualise the artefacts displayed in the collection and to demonstrate how archaeology is a dynamic process that continuously enriches and revises our understanding of the past.”

Lying some 600m to the south of the existing Museum, the Agios Georgios hill offers elevated views to the Venetian walled old town to the north. The archaeology is distributed across the topography with the best surviving remains at the front of the site on Severis Avenue, the crown of the hill and at two locations on its southern slope.

Pilbrow & Partners conceive the museum as a floating deck set atop the hill, shrouding and protecting the archaeology below.

Visitors approach the entrance up a gentle stair and ramp that are positioned to offer views down to the archaeology. They arrive at a lofty central space comprising a cool shaded foyer ringed by the galleries for the permanent and temporary displays. Between these galleries, and in clefts cut into the foyer floor, the archaeology below is visible.

A cafe at roof level to the north has a terrace commanding views over the Venetian walled city.

Fred Pilbrow continued:  “The proposal offers an exemplary context for the display of a very important collection with great spaces for display and engagement. Most critically, on a site with archaeological remains that encompass Nicosia’s entire historic development, the Museum will offer a unique insight into archaeology as a dynamic process that seeks to continuously enrich and refine our understanding of the past.

“Visitors will see archaeologists at work in live, investigative sites set below the public galleries. This archaeology will also form the backdrop to the staff and technical areas, linking their work on the collection with reminders of the original context of the finds.”

The WAN Awards Future Projects category is now open until 30th June.

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