GRAND MUSÉE DE L`AFRIQUE, Algiers

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Architects: UNStudio, Amsterdam

Artist: bloomimages, Hamburg

Copyright: UNStudio, Amsterdam

The Grand Musée de l'Afrique of Alger (competition entry by UNStudio) manifests the Algeria and Africa's cultural and natural richness. Reflecting the appearance of African mud huts the so called "cocoons" are intended as solid, confined spaces. Merely, a narrow skylight opening located in the perimeter of the space allows a controlled amount of daylight to enter.
In order to regulate the level of incident daylight motorized blinds open and close in an iris-like fashion. The system ensures flexible illumination catering to both daylight autonomous exhibitions for modern and abstract art and for strongly orchestrated artificially illuminated exhibitions.

A louver within the glass panes and a diffusing glass layer allow daylight to bathe the curved walls in a soft, diffuse light emphasizing the organic spatial character. In summary, a synergy between an authentic feel to the space and maximum flexibility for all kinds of exhibitions and exhibits is achieved.

Artificial lighting is provided from slots located in the walls and ceiling allowing for any imaginable scenario from accentuating lighting, wall washing and orchestration by colored light.
An integrated circular lighting element in the perimeter of the skylights imitates the soft zenithal daylight in the evening hours.

All "cocoons" are embraced and covered by a second roof layer. Underneath this structure, a vital atmosphere of openness and lightness is promoted by offering unobstructed views to the exterior as well as allowing direct sunlight to enter the space in selected locations.

The skylight openings are designed to create high contrasts of light and shadow only in selected areas respecting the sensitivity of individual exhibits.

Lateral openings are designed to admit major portions of sunlight to indirectly illuminate the interior or to enter at a very shallow angle, so that high illuminance levels above 4m wall height are reduced. Fabric-like volumes placed in the center of the skylights reduce the zenithal sunlight, yet promoting a sense of transparency and perception of daylight dynamics.
The architectural geometry itself provides for areas with low illuminance levels, where media installations and light projections may find their place.
A dialogue between visitor and art is encouraged in all public and circulation areas in the museum by offering a stimulating light dramaturgy as well as a friendly and inviting atmosphere. The illumination of the spaces is dependent upon their individual uses and is adapted to the exhibition and public space details.

During night time, uplights concealed within wall slots softly illuminate the ceiling vault making the architecture a visual experience. Linear lighting elements located between the vaults add a graphical layer and cater for general lighting.
From the exterior, the building radiates a subtle glow from within creating a representative and inviting gesture to the visitor.