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MIRABILIS MUSEUM

(Team: Ana Luisa Rolim, Isabella Trindade, Vera Freire and Eduardo Santos)

COMPETITION ENTRY: REUSE THE ROMAN RUIN – PISCINA MIRABILIS

A competition entry for a museum to be located in the former cistern called Piscina Mirabilis, territorial-scale wise the proposal seeks to establish an ‘archaeological route’ connecting landmarks of the Roman Empire vestiges in the Bacoli region, where the new museum would play a key role by maximizing the cultural value and identity of the entire region, the city of Bacoli and the other monuments they encompass.

 

MERGING NEW AND OLD 

Cesare Brandi (1963) has suggested that to intervene in a ruin one should not go back to what it once was or looked like. Brandi’s principle of distinguishability guides our design, which reassures the monument’s unique architectural features while adding new elements to generate a spatial setting for viewing contemporary art.

 

FLOATING PATH TOWARDS ART 

The series of voids resulting from the poche of the cruciform pillars supporting the cistern’s vaulted structure becomes a design force: a new floating path resembling the Augustan aqueduct, from Miseno to Serino, is placed in between the prominent piers, now immersed into a reflective pool. What once stored 12,600 m3 (3.3M gal) of water now gives room to art and movement, transforming the former voids into what Louis Kahn has called a ‘society of spaces’.

 

GUIDING THE VISITOR

The ticket counter leads to a glass bridge above the former NW staircase, which is connected to a cantilevered platform over steel structure, where the reception desk and elevator are located. This suspended lobby is visually integrated to the street through the glass in-filled arched openings, unfolding into a staircase that allows visitors to start immersing in the space below. Upon descending, visitors are directed towards the high-ceiling atrium below street level, from where they reach a floating path through sculptures resonating Alberto Giacometti’s corporeal works, placed amidst the cistern piers, creating a perfect counterpoint to these massive structural elements. 

As a metaphor to the shorter branches of the historic aqueduct, visitors encounter whimsical staircases along the floating path, which they can climb to view the space from a different height. The path ultimately leads to a new temporary exhibition space below the ruin’s footprint, partially revealed through the underwater circular skylights, that located directly below the openings in the historic barrel vault, can be seen alongside the floating route.

 

BRINGING A NEW SPACE WITHIN

A new lover level space is added to exhibit contemporary art, while housing a conference room and toilets in two soft-edge translucent volumes. Framed by a sinusoidal concrete slab alluding to the ancient vaults, it grants visitors an unprecedented view of the monument through the ocular skylights. The solid undulating slab rests on round concrete columns and retaining walls that safeguard the existing foundation. After exploring this space, visitors are led back to the atrium created below Via Mirabile NW, where water cascades down the reflective pool above, enhancing the immersive spatial experience. The atrium finally leads visitors straight towards the bookshop or upwards to the bar/café mezzanine, accessible both from a staircase and a lift, offering new views of the art and the former cistern.

 

ACTIVATING PUBLIC SPACE

The ruin’s rooftop is turned into a public space featuring a winding reflective pool that responds to the mimicked aqueduct path from below by having its walkable surface replaced with water, a playful element that could also help cooling high temperatures down. This new limestone-paved raised deck, sitting on a steel structure, pays homage to this typical Southern Italy material, highlighting a continuous sculptural bench and slightly inclined planes representing the old aqueduct’s branched configuration. At street level the NE Via Mirabile is pedestrianized and along with the remaining streets surrounding the building, the existing paving is replaced with regular basalt rock. The goal is to create a "buffer zone" around the monument to stress its significance and distinctive character.

Exhibition level 1: the new floating path between existing piers is immersed into a reflective pool

The territorial scale: the proposal aims to establish an ‘archaeological route’ connecting landmarks of the Roman Empire in the Bacoli region

The ruin’s rooftop becomes a public space with a winding reflective pool that responds to the aqueduct path on the lower level

Longitudinal section: What once stored water now houses art and movement, transforming the former voids into what Louis Kahn has called a ‘society of spaces’.

The new roof deck translates the shape of the Roman Aqueduct

The new limestone roof deck pays homage to this typical Southern Italy material, featuring a sculptural bench and inclined planes that relate to the old aqueduct’s configuration.

Ground floor plan with reception desk and viewing platform towards the spaces below

View towards lower level featuring whimsical staircases which represent the shorter branches of the former aqueduct

The path through art on lower level 1

A floating path through sculptures is placed amidst the cistern piers, creating a counterpoint to these massive structural elements.

Mezzanine and lower level 2 floor plans: the descend towards the exhibition spaces are gradual, inviting visitors to explore the ruin

View from atrium on lower level 2: a new and flexible exhibition space with soft-edge translucent volumes (conference room and toilets)

Framed by a sinusoidal concrete slab alluding to the ancient vaults, visitors are granted unprecedented views of the monument through ocular skylights

Longitudinal section: bringing a new space within the former cistern

Lower level 2 can be accessed at the end of the floating path on level 1