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Museum of Archaeology-Translating the process of excavation into architecture

Part 1 Project 2002
Charis Chi Man Tsang
Thomas Corrie
University of Hong Kong China
Set in the midst of a Janus-like landscape of lush topography to the south and on-going archaeological excavation to the north, the museum’s central location was determined by two sources significant to the site’s recent history: the Sha-Kok-Mei Village and the now demolished temporary housing blocks.

Visitors enter the museum conscious of its subterranean disposition as they gradually make their way down the ramp. The massive rammed earth walls define the galleries as the museum’s most important entities. To add a tactile dimension to the museum experience, skylights constructed directly above the walls bathe shafts of natural light down them, further enhancing the beauty of the walls' texture and layers. Rammed earth construction is chosen for its ability to resolve the dilemma of on-site excavation waste as well as offering a non-pretentious solution to evoking the stratification of the ground in section. The sparseness of the interiors and integrated display methods allow visitors to contemplate the stratified elegance of the earth walls, and thus appreciate the very root of archaeology.

The four gallery modules, though equal in area, differ in volume and scale. Moving from the central space to the outer galleries, one progressively reemerges to the surface, bringing forth a subtle hierarchy not apparent from the exterior. Narrow embrasures punctuate sections of the walls, increasing visual interaction between those inside the galleries and those in the interstitial zones. These incisions help reiterate the thickness of the walls and provide alternative areas of display.

At a time when edifices tend to veer towards the overt and abstract, this museum’s design is considerably muted in the extravagances one often sees in its contemporaries. With a clear absence of the ubiquitous steel and glass, this scheme focuses on translating the process of excavation into architecture

Charis Chi Man Tsang
Thomas Corrie

In the first instance, this project maintained a particular focus on issues of sustainability, in both the present as well as an archaeological tense of the word. It was, and it still is, important to the designer to retain a tactile engagement with the site and its architecture by reinforcing the design ideas of this museum through a complex layering of ideas, motifs, vistas with a sensitive manipulation of building materials; and methods in construction. The design of this museum is to be experienced from every surface and every vista, from both horizontal as well as vertical dimensions. Light is the omnipresent element by which these museum spaces are measured. With the sharp slivers of light into these exhibition spaces, pitched against hewed surfaces rendered by rammed earth and concrete, the reality of archaeology is both maintained and embraced. This project is well illustrated with both rendered drawings & sketches as well as forced perspective models that highlight individual spaces

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