"I had the option of showing one of my [existing] projects or trying to think out of the box and create something from scratch," GM founder
Mahmoud decided to design a museum that would showcase the country's rich history, highlighting the successive civilizations to have ruled
"The problem I have with museums is that they have become architectural signatures," Mahmoud said. "Usually they're very bold statements that are not very accessible ... [Here] there's no architectural gesture. It's just a promenade through time."
The open-air structure houses a metal framework. Staggered platforms would allow visitors to stop and view the archaeological traces of each civilization, from the Phoenician period through the present day.
The bottom of the dig is to be filled with water, Mahmoud said, representing the
"We needed something to go back to the surface," Mahmoud explained, "something that can become an iconic element within the city ... We wanted a very pure white shape, which is the white sheet of paper, the future as you'd like to imagine it."
The object, he continued, is to erect a tower whose windows provide patrons with appealing views of adjacent archaeological sites, allowing them to see their interrelationship.
These symbolic elements reflect the aim of the museum – to foster a sense of community.
"A main issue in this region now [is] that people don't understand others and don't communicate," Mahmoud said. "When you see this, you'll understand that we're all more or less from the same origins. It's not about being Christian or Muslim. It's much deeper than that ... When you know your history you become much more open. You become much more understanding. You learn to live together."
The museum marks a departure for Mahmoud's firm, which specializes in designing high-end tourism destinations such as luxury hotels and seaside resorts.
"I owe it to people in general to try and do something that is accessible to everyone," Mahmoud explained.
The designs for the project have been on display in
Moving from architectural design to construction, however, tends to face nonarchitectural challenges.
The first involves location. The architect has not yet settled on a site for the museum, he acknowledged, adding that the Downtown plot earmarked in the renderings was "symbolic." The first step in choosing a site, Mahmoud said, is to confer with local archaeologists.
When it comes to transforming Mahmoud's concept into a reality, said
"He can reconstruct it artificially," she suggested with a shrug, "but there is no place in
The oldest part of the city, she explained, is the Phoenician Tal area, adjacent the
"After the first millennium the heart of
A further problem is posed by the fact that the Phoenician Tal area was thoroughly excavated during the 1990s, leaving Mahmoud nowhere to dig.
"Excavation is like reading a book and tearing out the pages – you cannot reconstruct what you have excavated," Sader clarified. "Once it's excavated, it's destroyed. That's why documentation and recording are crucial if you want to reconstruct and understand what you have done."
Informed of Sader's views, Mahmoud replied that he would consider complementing existing layers with an exhibition of objects found in digs conducted nearby. "To recreate layers is a bit too kitsch," he said. "I want to keep the rawness of the dig exploration."
Funding for the project also remains hazy. Mahmoud said he intends to approach international organizations like
Sader doubts that such a project would be a priority for these institutions. She expressed further reservations, pointing out that there are multiple and pressing threats to
In search of another perspective,
Looking over GM's designs, Noujaim noted that the idea resembles an old plan for an archaeological museum in
Current Culture Minister
Areiji was unaware of Mahmoud's design, he said, adding that construction on an unrelated archaeological museum in the Phoenician Tal area is set to begin in September.
"As far as I know there is one project," he said. "It was decided six or seven years ago to build a museum for
"There is a plan, a timeline, and we started it by signing the first document [two weeks ago]," he added. "So the second phase is in September we should put the first stone and begin construction."
This project, which Areiji estimated will take three years to complete, has enormous financial backing. Kuwaiti donors have pledged
Pritzker-prize winning Italian architect
The minister said he was unable to share the exact details of the proposed location of the museum and gardens, but that the site was located close to the
Based on the terms of reference issued by the ministry this month, he said,
Presented with Mahmoud's plans, Areiji said he was interested in exploring any cultural proposals, but added that "there is no room for two museums in the same area."
In a subsequent interview, Mahmoud said he was unaware of the ministry project but that he intended to continue planning his
"I don't know what this other museum is about," he said, "because when I presented this project to
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