© 2017 American Friends of Umm el-Fahem
Museum of Contemporary Art
All rights reserved.
The structural idea of the museum design is based on the Phased Construction Model: A set of structural rules allowing the development and expansion of the building interior in various phases, subject to the arrangement of the grid.
One of the important assumptions in planning the museum is the wish to achieve constructional completion during Phase A. The constructional grid, the floors of the building, the envelope, the internal patio, and the sculpture garden, will already be completed during the 1st phase. The construction of the remaining parts of the museum (during the ensuing phases) will be internal, and their function will be to "fill" the grid according to requirements. Thus, the final envelope of the museum in its entirety will already look complete during the 1st phase. Potential expansion areas can already be
used during this phase as public spaces for additional activities, according to the requirements of the museum (rest areas, terraces overlooking the wadi, etc.). This plan allows for absolute freedom throughout the various phases of the construction process, which may be adjusted to the project's economic and operative resources. For example: Phase A will see the construction of some of the collection galleries, ethnography, and contemporary art, while the various ensuing phases will provide for progress on the potential areas within the grid. The plan is such, that the addition of various functions during the ensuing phases will not affect the functions already constructed during Phrase A, not only because the grid structure allows it, but also because of the location of the new areas will be remote from the core and the foyer, the two sections that constitute the functional and
programmatic heart of the building.
The basic plan of Phase A attains structural and visual completion and provides freedom for future expansion based on the existing structure, while saving significantly on planning and construction procedures for additional sections.
The envelope of the building will be composed of Mashrabiyas, a type of latticed or screened walls that are characteristic to Islamic architecture and fulfill various functions: architectural, climatic, social, and aesthetic. The use of the Mashrabiya, created as a division between the interior of the house and the world outside, will contribute to the position of the museum in its natural setting and its local context. While the Mashrabiya will lay out the borders of the building, it will not close it off completely. During the hours of sunlight, the external part of the
Mashrabiya will be brightly illuminated, and the density of the lattice will not allow those outside the building to see what is going on within the museum (except for some slight indication). From the museum interior, which will be relatively dark compared to the outside, on the other hand, it will be possible to see what is happening outside.
The Mashrabiya will be designed in the form of Arabic letters, with a constant regularity: Identical distances and volumes of negative and positive. This aesthetic regularity will also undergo a technological architectural interpretation. The Mashrabiya modules will be made of GRC (glass fiber-reinforced concrete), and pre-cast in three basic patterns that determine the degree of transparency and shading.
Each pattern will be positioned in accordance with its function in relation to the museum, adjusted to the museum program that requires handling of difference spatial situations in the context of temperature, lighting, inside/outside, and screening—marking spaces.
Because of the functional characteristics of the 1st floor, (collections and ethnography spaces), penetration of natural light is not desired. Therefore, the Mashrabiya will be cast as a relief, and be completely non-transparent. Controlled penetration of natural light is planned for the 2nd floor (spaces for contemporary art), therefore the Mashrabiya here will be semi-transparent. Along the walkway on the roof, the Mashrabiya will allow for maximum
penetration of natural light.
Each unit in the grid will be composed of six interconnecting modules. The Mashrabiyas are made of GRC, glass fiber-reinforced concrete with high durability. GRC is significantly lighter than pre-traditional concrete, a fact that has been taken into account for constructional considerations of the building. This material allows the production of modules and industrial molds. Thus, a number of pattern types can be obtained, creating a wide variety of combinations and meaning.