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Great Egyptian Museum

Giza, Egypt

Preliminary / conceptual design by Elida Doldan Schujman and Christopher Manos

Program Objectives:

The program was on creating a world class complex of exhibitions and open spaces capable of demonstrating the development of the Egyptian Civilization through its Land, Society, Kingship, Religion and Scribes and Knowledge. Interactive exhibits, archaeological parks and open to the public restoration labs will stimulate the visitor's curiosity of those who would attend for the museum experience. It should offer not only educational but also recreational opportunities to the visitors and to the local community. A clear dialogue between the neighboring Giza Pyramids and the new complex should be established.

Proposed solution:

Our aim for the development of the GEM site is to preserve and restore the upper plateau to its original desert form, ensuring that the Giza Pyramids will be viewed for years to come through a desert foreground.

The museum has two entries: The Urban Approach access from the Cairo-Alexandria Road and the Mythical Approach (southwest side) which receives visitors from the Pyramids via monorail, bus, or foot. Visitors approaching from the Cairo-Alexandria Road are greeted by the lush gardens and the sharp ascending blade of the Atrium cutting into the sky, as a symbol of the Mythical Past. Extending to the right and left of the Atrium, the building’s undulating glass curtain wall is a continuous water feature that has 1/3 of its width inside the building and the other two thirds outside, symbolizing the River Nile and its interconnectedness with all things Egyptian.

The Main Entry is at the Atrium. It faces north like entries to most ancient Pyramids. The 150-meter long atrium has gardens that rise with the slope of the terrain and a roof that opens in sections. Visitors can also choose to ascend the Spire of the Atrium by escalators to reach a viewing deck 65 meters above the main entrance from where not only the Giza Pyramids can be seen in their southern totality, but also Cairo and its surroundings. With this towering architectural element we are offering the visitor a recreation of the emotional and mystical experience of standing atop a pyramid and perhaps ascending to the heavens, the ultimate goal in ancient Egyptian belief. The height of the viewing deck echoes the height of the King’s chamber inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu while deep below the south end of the Atrium, and echoing the Great Pyramid of Khufu’s burial chamber, rests the Tomb of Tutankhamon and its magnificent treasures.

The roof of the main body of the museum building extends from each side of the Atrium and rolls like undulating desert dunes mimicking the surrounding terrain. The upper plateau of the undulating roof bends and disappears into the desert. We have chosen this approach for the roof system to minimize the impact of a very large building on the site.

Two separate assemblies of buildings resembling small villages act like bookends containing the flowing movement of the museum’s roof. These buildings display a more historical building type with walls that slant inward. They are a grounding motif that gives a sense of permanence, like ancient Egyptian architecture, which is in clear contrast with the sharp, light lines of the Atrium and the soft rolling shapes of the roof.

The Wing runs along the site, half framing the view towards the Pyramids. The concept behind the long canopy is that of a ‘wing’ that shelters and protects the visitor from the sun and wind. It invites visitors to adventure into the desert and explore even on the hottest days of summer. The shelter roof narrows as it approaches mid-span, giving visitors a taste of the Egyptian sun. Close to the mid-span the visitor finds an Oasis. Beyond, are other Theme Parks recreating some aspect of ancient Egyptian life.