Architects often find inspiration from the most unexpected places and objects. For Kalliope Kontozoglou, the C6th Cypriot Sphinx in the Louvre Museum and its tilted head were great influence behind her proposal for the International Architectural Competition for the New Cyprus Museum.
To honor the country’s rich historic archeology, and frame Nicosia’s topography, Kontozoglou proposed a multidimensional museum, which aims to weave the city’s topography, the exhibitions, and the public spaces all together in a sequence of ‘narrative landscapes’, promoting dialogue between the visitors, Cyprus’ landscape, and the country’s heritage.
“Looking at the past in order to find what led to what we are today in an archeology...In Cyprus in particular, “a place where the miracle is still possible” (Seferis), the history of the people is mythically grounded to their landscape” - Kalliope Kontozoglou
The museum’s spatial design takes the visitors on a journey of archeological discovery. Upon arrival, visitors are ascended from the street level via a ramp, leading to a large Baroque garden room and public terrace, nestled between pilotis. From here, ongoing excavations, temporary exhibitions, and the ‘arena’ can be visible to the visitors. The terrace is connected to the Municipal Gardens upwards via ‘ramping landscaped fingers’, and descends to a ‘copper-mine-like-garden’, then to the river.
Visitors enter the museum through the giant ‘eye of the Sphinx’, a grand vertical space with dynamic intaglio reliefs. Ticketing offices and gift shops are open directly at the lobby, leading to the temporary exhibition gallery and cafe, both located in small archetypal houses.
From the main foyer, visitors ascend to the permanent galleries via escalators, which converge into a main space of three-tiered terraces, all connected by ramps, and surrounded with artifact display panels. The terraces are connected vertically with a pavilion, and as visitors keep ascending, they find themselves on the roof, in the ‘glyptotheque’, a Z-shaped garden with artifacts, reconstructed archeological contexts, and local vegetation.
The archeological history of Cyprus is narrated in an arena, inscribed by a stoa. Around it, a library, the Institute of Antiquities, and Conference Hall are placed in a fan shape, lit by the punctures in the landscape. Towards the south, archeological stores and research rooms are placed. A tunnel to the old archeological museum is built over the parkings, which are spread all beneath the museum.