Grand Egyptian Museum, Museums, Egypt, Cairo

Heneghan Peng to design largest archeological museum in Egypt

Located near the internationally famed Giza Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt’s planned Grand Egyptian Museum is set to become one of the largest – if not the biggest – archaeological museums in the world. Devoted entirely to a single civilisation, the museum – currently being built 15km southeast of Cairo – is set to galvanise the global fascination with ancient Egyptian culture, Construction Week reported. 

The museum will house roughly 100,000 artefacts from various periods of Egypt’s history – 20,000 of which are being shown for the very first time. With its scale in mind, the size and complexity of the project mirrors that of the pyramids – Khufe, Khafre, and Menkaure – that sits at its base.

Irish architecture firm Heneghan Peng won the tender to design the mammoth structure, and construction on the museum started in 2012.

The firm’s eventual design incorporates a series of layers, where visitors can move through a forecourt, a shaded entrance hall – where the 3,200-year-old statue of King Ramses II, weighing 83t, stands – and a grand staircase that ascends to the plateau level where the galleries are located and visitors can see the pyramids from inside the museum.

“This was a design concept that really integrates this museum with the pyramids,” says Schokking. “That’s what it’s all about, particularly given its location.”

For example, the slant of the structures roof aligns with the axis from the neighbouring pyramids, conceptually linking modern Cairo and Egypt’s ancient history, Schokking explains in conversation with Construction Week.

“Other design features include, what we call the stilettos – massive downward pointing structures along the grand stairs. There are two rows – one on each side of the travellators that go up and down for those who do not want to, or cannot walk, the main stairs.”

Schokking says the stiletto structures “were very complicated to build”, adding the huge inverted triangle steel structures are clad with Egyptian stone.

He adds: “They have become structural to support the roof but that was not their main use. You could have put a column there but this [shape] was part of the design. The main ‘star’ of the entrance courtyard is the Rameses statue. The galleries are on the third level – their facades are actually inclined. To construct these was not easy either.”

The folded roof structure – another key component of the original architectural design – is another complex building feature, with rectangular panels spread across all parts of the roof and its underside, as well as the project’s suspended ceilings, as the project director explains.

“You’ll see these rectangles everywhere, and [they] must line up with each other,” he says.

“To match all of these patterns is quite difficult and needs a lot of precision. This whole project was modelled using building information technology (Bim).

“Nowadays you would consider that completely normal – every project generally gets done using Bim. But, bear in mind, this project was awarded end-2011 to early-2012, and at that time it was quite an impressive feature to do it fully through BIM.”

One of the major design features in the original Heneghan Peng design was a Sierpinsky wall, a freestanding structure that would run alongside the multi-function parking complex and lead to the food court.

However, as Schokking points out, the client decided to change the design it to a “pyramid wall”, which features huge pyramids that are clad with translucent Onyx stone – expected to make for particularly impressive viewing when lit up at night.

Two firms are handling the showcases that will house the thousands of ancient artefacts set to be displayed once the museum opens, which is set for 20 October, 2020, according to Moftah.

Based out of the Italian city of Milan is Goppion, which designs, develops, and builds display cases and museum installations, is working on the project.

Tasked with carrying out half of the museum’s displays cases and installations, the group is known for designing the first display case for Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in Paris’ Musee de Louvre. The company recently took the contract to design a high-tech display case for the museum.

The project is being built in three phases. The first phase concerned the construction of the museum’s conservation centre, which adjoins the main museum by an underground tunnel.

The second relates to the construction of the energy centre, adjacent to the conservation centre and tasked with provided electricity and cooling to the entire site.