003 / The Grand Museum of Egypt
The Grand Museum of Egypt (GEM) finally opened its doors to the public. Arguably one of the most anticipated museum building, the GEM has been in construction for nearly two decades. The museum bills itself as ‘the world’s largest archeological museum dedicated to a single civilisation’.
How do you create a mega structure that celebrates one of humanity’s greatest ancient civilisations but also remains in the shadows? The solution from Heneghan and Peng architects was to complement the geometry of what was already there. The new building can never take away from the main attraction, the pyramids themselves, rather it acts as an extension of the journey in the exploration of some of the most recognisable structures humanity has ever built.
On a personal note I remember attending a cozy talk in the ground floor of Carlow House in London back in 2002 (it was shortly after starting at Arup, so my memory is hazy). The talk was by the duo of architects behind the GEM concept. The architects explained that the win came as a total surprise, having never delivered anything (or even a part of anything) even remotely on this scale. The concept was so strong it transcended the immediate practical details and the reality of execution was quickly upon them.