National museum Niš

Authors: Milena Zindović, Riste Dobrijević, Ljiljana Čavić

Location for construction of the new building for the National Museum in Niš is the corner of streets Jeronimova and Orlovića Pavla, Medijana Municipality. The lot is adjacent to the Officers’ Hall, actively used for various manifestations, and opposite the city park, on the board of the river Nišava. The central city location is adequate to the program, but the volume and master plan parameters presented a challenge introducing the new building of large dimensions into a pixelated urban matrix.

Analyzing the relations of existing and neighboring buildings, the expected volume of the new musem, and the spatial layout of the whole block, resulted in the introduction of a linear form in the depth of the plot and openning a half-atrium towards Jeronimova street, on the south of the location. This way the tall shape, which will certainly dominate the surrounding area when seen from afar, is not in the forefront of the street front of Jeronimova street. Also, this layout of the museum allows for the creation of a plateau, which is at once a gathering area for visitors and the entrance for employees and the museum collection.

From the park side, the open space allows for views of the entire height of the museum building. With its small width of the park facade (a total of 7,7m) and the height of 27m, the building is perceived as a tower rather then a screen, compared to the adjacent buildings. To prevent overwhelming of the existing heritage building, the house of bishop Jeronim, the new musem is separated from it with a glass insert that follows the slanted roof form. The insert between old and new is also the main entrance to the museum, and allows for entry from both the Orlovića Pavla street and the atrium.

The tall museum volume is designed in contrast to the existing architecture on location, with contemporary solutions and paying attention to make it visually lighter. The monolithic façade, without horizontal divisions, allows for perception of the museumas a “screen” or background, emphasizing the heritage architecture. The façade features a curtain of vertical pipes differing in diameter, distance and position over the glass layer, which gives a special dynamic to the simple shape of the museum, and softens the hard egdes of the contemporary building, while at the same time allowing for transparency and visual lightness of the volume. The architectural language of the pipes is inspired by the nearby park – the museum is accessed through the park trees, and then through the pipe forest.

The transparent façade visually connects the outside spaces of the park and tree-lined atrium with the inside space of the entrance hall. The connection of the public space of the museum with the public space of the park can equally be established by program – using the entrance plateau and park as a space for open-air exhibitions.

The layout of vertical elements on the façade, other then to provide visual dynamics, is also informed by building orientation – the pipes are more dense on the south side of the building then on the north. This “curtain”, in addition to shading, also protects glass surface from the wind, and the cylindrical shape of the pipes softens the shadows and the overall form of the buildings. The “forest” of façade pipes creates dynamic shadows in the interior, which provide visitors with an interesting and attractive space.

Spaces intended for museum visitors, such as entrance halls, communications, vestuary, museum shop and cafe, toilets, etc. are located in the underground level, the ground floor and the third floor. The project allows for 800 m2 of exhibition space, located in the undeground level, on the first and second floor. The ground and first floor also house spaces for admission and handling of the collection, as well as the museum library. This way, a simple communication is provided with the spaces of the depot, located in the underground levels.

Collection depot is located on the underground level (Ethnology and Antiquity), with a mezzanine level housing Epigraphic, Art History, Prehistoric, Historic, Medieval and Numismatic collections. Literary heritage is located on the mezzanine of the ground floor, with access allowed only to employees, who are using the deepest area of the volume. Upper floors, from forth to sixth, house conservation laboratories and office spaces, with all amenities. All employee spaces are connected with communication shafts, located in the deepest area of the buildings. The employees entrance is from the plateau in Jeronimova street, as well as the vehicular access for transportation of the collection.

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