Next Project

Forensic Archaeology Centre

Part 1 Project 2009
Laura Gazey
Liverpool John Moores University Liverpool | UK

Will we ever fully understand human evolution?

Archaeological excavations of ancient burial sites have always been the most informative when it comes to learning about previous cultures and environments. Through the recovery and scientific analysis of ancient bones, we can gain insight into matters such as life expectancy, diet and nutrition, health and disease and the relationships between population groups. Through education and by bringing us closer to the idea of death, the Forensic Archaeolgy Centre forces us to question the way in which we live, whilst also making us appreciate what we have and highlighting the importance of looking after our health.


The intention was to re-discover the originally intended dynamism and movement of the ramp walls whilst re-opening the old catacombs and inserting various functions. Due to the historic nature of the site the scheme is mostly subterranean, creating dramatic, cavernous spaces that give the building a timeless, spiritual quality.

The visitor embarks on a journey through a series of progressional spaces, uncovering historical layers in a quest for knowledge. The Forensic Archaeolgy Centre aims to express, celebrate and demystify the process of scientific analysis, which is usually surrounded by invisibility and secrecy.

Laura Gazey

Beneath our cities lie traces of their genesis and history. These traces exist as a palimpsest, written and over-written, waiting to be discovered through Urban Archaeology. The departure point for the project was the exploration of the historical context of a site. A variety of methods for interpreting historical references and traces were explored through drawings, models and collage. From here the student developed an individual thematic strategy.

The project’s public interface was an outpost of the British Museum, for which the exhibits were to be particular and specific thus generating dedicated spaces and avoiding generic gallery space. The Department of Archaeology required facilities for teaching, research and analysis. Students thus had to integrate public and private realms within the building, exploring the definition and thresholds between them. The nature of contemporary teaching was also a source of exploration.

The former use of her chosen site as a cemetery led this student to explore the rituals associated with burial to deepen her thematic studies and relate both context and programme to each other. She physically excavated the site itself to re-use catacombs, thereby creating a combination of new and existing structures which are woven into, rather than placed on, the site. This creates a sensitive layering of spaces as one moves deeper into the building; in so doing, hidden spaces beneath the surface are revealed – an analogy of the process of archaeology itself. The section thus becomes a critically important view, creating thoroughly considered spaces. She has resolved the challenges of inhabiting subterranean environments, and has carefully manipulated natural light to dramatic effect.


• Page Hits: 16760         • Entry Date: 09 September 2009         • Last Update: 14 September 2009