Museum of Underwater AntiquitiesEdit profile
The main object of the competition is the conversion of an existing cereals stock house building facilities (SILO) into a Museum for Underwater Antiquities and the regeneration of part of the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) Coastal Zone – and its transformation into an open public space for outdoor activities. This abandoned building bares a distinct industrial character as does the entire site. It resembles a once Giant shrugged by the years.
Our thesis is that the effort of an existing building to receive a completely different use from its previous, is a painful one and cannot be done in a gently manner. By default this action will bring about, dramatic changes to the existing building (shell and interior). The task to fit in the existing shell a new use without compromising the existing character of the building, however intriguing, is futile. A mild treatment of the existing building with minimal modifications and changes will simply result in a compromised new building that fails to accomplish its objective as a Museum in the best possible way. A brave gesture is needed. One that would regenerate the building, uplift it and possibly mutate its character in a way that will allow the Museum to appear and the Industrial to coexist in the background without antagonizing one another.
The basic elements that define the existing building are:
• The bulk of the building or otherwise the "Box".
• The “Box” is based on the “Pilotis”. Dense grid of concrete columns.
• The “Tower”, perhaps one of the highest points of the coast of Piraeus.
• The “Watch” a unique example metal construction, which is a landmark for the entire port of Piraeus and sets upon the tower.
• The “Conveyor belt” an extremely long and narrow building accompanied by three mobile metal structures the “Pylons”.
The "box" is the container in which the treasures found or will be retrieved from the seabed are transported, stored and exhibited. The “shipwreck” is the ultimate treasure that divers dive in great depths to reach. It would be ideal if it were possible to cut a whole section of the seabed and have it transported intact inside the "Box" of the Museum. In this case the lower level of the building would host the “Shipwreck”. Visitors and researchers would enter the building from the ground floor and would immediately reach the “Shipwreck”. The problem with this model is that it negates the adventure of the prolonged dive. For this reason we propose literally turning this model upside down.
The visitor still enters (dives into) the building from the ground level and starts ascending gradually moving into darker depths (floors), ultimately to reach the “Shipwreck” on the top of the building lying upside down. The “Shipwreck” of course in this case is not literal but a new construction that replicates it. It's an upside down, deconstructed and decomposed "boat" which hosts very important uses: the restaurant, the amphitheater and the library. This “Shipwreck” which sits in the best location of the building will be a surprise for each guest and also the key element that differentiates it from all other museums of this kind.
This was the main concept for our proposal and every decision thereafter was made to enhance this idea. For this reason it was decided that in the main entrance lobby, replicas of old sunken ships were to be hung upside down as exhibits.
The most basic element that is introduced to the building and relates with the museum is water and more precisely the Sea. The Sea, beautiful, untamed and dangerous, could not leave the outer shell of the building unaffected. For this reason we created a second skin that waves gently around the building, sometimes protruding and others withdrawing from the original volume, hiding it or revealing it subsequently. The secondary skin, called the “Wave” is made of very lightweight recyclable cellular polycarbonate panels lined with highly reflective aluminum. This surface reflects the surface of the main volume which is lined with colored blue aluminum panels, creating an illusion of an amorphous liquid building. The “Wave” also symbolizes the existing buildings struggle to emit its new capacity as a museum from within its old shell.
The panels also function as sunshades for the building, increasing its energy efficiency and they also scatter the light inside creating an interesting game of light and shadows in the interior.
The building aluminum façade has a total of 6 colors, shades of blue, plus the white. These form a wavelike mosaic across the surface. The effort was to have the white color closer to the ground and to darken gradually the color of the building towards the top. The same objective is pursued with the windows and their typology. There are 5 types of window. They all have the same width but the height decreases the higher the floor is. We try to be consistent with the notion that the deeper one dives into the sea the less light there is. The windows also follow a wavelike motion not being consistent in their position or height.
The “Pilotis” (ground level portion) of the building becomes the entrance. It’s enclosed in a glass curtain wall placed in recess from the outer edge of the building. This solution offers the excellent preservation of the character of this element of the building, but allows it to be usable area in the same.
Since the “Tower” does not serve as a clock tower anymore, its proposed new function is that of a “Lighthouse” or beacon that sends out the message of civilization. For this reason, the height of the tower was amplified by 10m and created a luminous observation post at the top.
The “Conveyor belt” building receives new uses: Exhibits and a Bar-Restaurant.
The two long sides of the building now become completely transparent, like a "tableau vivant" for those outside of the building, especially during the evening hours. Also it provides unobstructed views to the vast surrounding open public space adjacent to the museum.
The “Pylons” will be painted with vibrant colors (yellow, orange and green) that will make them look like large pieces of contemporary art, brightening the otherwise extremely dull colors of the harbor.
Our guide for the design of the surroundings public open space was the desire to create a truly special place that will become a magnet for all ages. There are two very basic features missing from the majority of public places of Athens and Piraeus:
• large-scale green (grass and trees)
• large scale water areas
So the starting point of our design was to create the maximum possible surface of water and greenery. Therefore we wrapped the Museum in a large water area. All accesses to the building are through water. So the Museum looks like an island in a lake.
Green occupies the entire waterfront. A second green belt created in the border of the sirte where the monorail and the highway pass, aimed to create an audio-visual isolation of the area.