'A transition in time, space and memory': Architect behind Cyprus' national archaeology museum reveals design concept

The design concept is to create a museum that, when visited and experienced, evokes a transition in time, in space, in memory
– Theoni Xanthi, XZA Architects

Architect Theoni Xanthi has told CLADglobal how her team's vision for the national archaeology museum in Cyprus was inspired by “the materials that gave birth to Cypriot and Mediterranean culture”.

The partner at Greek studio XZA Architects is leading the design of New Cyprus Museum – a project the firm won the project in a two-stage international competition held last year.

Housing the nation’s treasures, the €49m (US$58.7m, £43.6m) building will replace the country’s current archaeological institution in Nicosia, which was established in the late 1800s and now lacks enough space to house the museum’s growing collection of antiquities.

Three raised white-stone volumes resting above clear glass boxes will be constructed on the riverside site, currently occupied by the closed and soon-to-be relocated Nicosia General Hospital. Each structure will house permanent and temporary galleries dedicated, consecutively, to the conceptual and museological themes of ‘Topos, Cosmos and Sea’.

A terraced garden with trees and waterways will surround the building and an open-air atrium will be created around a sunken public plaza that can host outdoor performances.

According to Xanthi, “pure light, deep relieving shadows, open horizons and a strong relationship between the landscape and the built environment” will be created in the public areas to evoke the squares, atriums and promenades where the people of Cyprus traditionally gathered, socialised and built their culture.

“The design concept is to create a museum that, when visited and experienced, evokes a transition in time, in space, in memory,” she said. “The building will be much more than a stylistic exercise or an architectural statement.

"We want to create a new environment for the archaeological finds that will be exhibited here. They will emerge in light after their long stay in darkness and oblivion.

“Our feeling that the historical and cultural past is a symbolic weight – a meteoric cloud hovering above every place – has inspired us to raise the exhibition volumes from the ground in order to free the open space and let the living city pass through below.

“The intention is to create a cultural building that refers both to the past and the everyday life of the city.”

The two-year construction period will begin this year, with the first phase including galleries, administration offices, storage areas for antiquities and food, beverage and retail facilities.

A library, auditorium and underground parking will follow in the second phase.

XZA Architects have previously been shortlisted in design competitions for a Recreation Park and Rural Heritage Museum in Eptagonia, Cyprus and a Museum for the Promotion of the ancient Greek city of Argos.

New Cyprus Museum  XZA Architects  Theoni Xanthi  Cyprus  Nicosia  
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