Friday, July 27, 2007

The Grand Egyptian Museum

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

An account of the visit by the Culture Minister Farouk Hosni to the site of the future Grand Egyptian Museum, plus a description of how the museum will fit into the landscape and what its internal plan will be like.

Yasser Mansour, the project coordinator, described the GEM as a building "sitting like a paradox" in the vicinity of the Pyramids. "It will create a new experience for Cairo and a new type of museum for the world, one which will become a main node in a global network of museums of Egyptology and will relocate the cultural and intellectual issues of ancient Egypt to the land of their origin," Mansour said.

The monumentality of the architecture is not visible, but it is still present through the formal configuration of the past, present and future. The museum sinks into the earth and the history of the country by an incision and an inversion into the landscape. The massive halls below the museum plateau will enter into a new relation with the Pyramids, one that recalls their scale and power and respects their primacy as the monuments of the site. By inverting the sectional qualities of the Pyramids, the GEM will present Cairo with a new concept: a large, flexible, educational museum which is hybridised within the landscape.

The form of the museum results from the juxtaposition of three elements: the sunken museum matrix and crater roof, the landscape, and the black stone roof. Within this hybrid, the landscape and the sunken museum by their monumental and archaeological references conjure up the past, while the black stone roof points to the future and the continuous cataloguing of historical artefacts.

Visitors will approach the GEM from the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, approaching the entrance gallery through the plaza. The display in the intermediate zone will link the collections within and the desert without, and vice versa. The entrance gallery will flow into the museum interface, which will be both a massive and welcoming open public area through which visitors pass up to the surface of the roof or down to the exhibition halls. Moving upwards through the interface will bring visitors to the level of the roof crater, where the expanse of the building can be perceived for the first time... Circulating the crater rim visitors can walk to the park access ramp, a large incision in the landscape blocking out the surrounding urban development. The park access ramp leads to the pyramid view point, where the Pyramids are the main, if not the only, subject of contemplation.

See the above page for full details.

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