Egypt’s Library of Alexandria has launched an open international competition – judged by Jane Drew Prize winner Odile Decq – for a new 125,000m² Science City near Cairo (Deadline: 15 May)
Open to architects and multidisciplinary teams, the single-stage contest seeks both a comprehensive masterplan and a conceptual design for the new campus.
Planned as a national institute for scientific innovation, the offshoot of the prestigious library will be constructed within Egypt’s ‘6th of October City’ settlement, 32km outside Cairo.
Source: Image by David Stanley
Founded by former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1979, the 400km2 planned city has a population of half a million and is expected to eventually host 3.7 million inhabitants.
The competition comes 14 years after Snøhetta completed its competition-winning new home for the library. Known locally as the ’Bibliotheca Alexandrina’, it is a revival of the famous Library of Alexandria which was sacked during the Roman conquest of Egypt.
According to the brief: ‘This new complex, to be constructed on prime land, calls for an inspiring new comprehensive masterplan and conceptual design; that will ultimately create the first 21st-century science museum, learning and research facility in Egypt.’
‘The design of science city will create a set of buildings and spaces that must be inspiring on the outside and motivating and exciting on the inside to visitors and employees alike. It must express a particular vision of the search for knowledge and the pursuit of science.’
The campus on the western edge of Cairo will feature an exhibition hall, museum, conference centre, research hub, planetarium, observation tower and outdoor park.
Competition judges include French architect Odile Decq who won this year’s Jane Drew Prize in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the status of women in architecture.
Library of Alexandria director Ismail Serageldin, former British Museum director Neil MacGregory and Harvard Graduate School of Design dean and professor Mohsen Mostafavi are also on the jury.
The winning team will receive approximately £75,000 and the design contract. A second-place prize of £50,000, third-place prize of £30,000 and fourth-place prize of £14,000 are also available.
Four honourable mentions will receive around £3,400 each and all eight prize winners will receive a £2,000 honorarium for their design work.
The competition language is English and the entry fee is around £70.
How to apply
Registration 15 May, submissions 2pm local time 17 August
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Planetarium Science Centre Chatby
Tel: +203 4839999
Fax: +203 4820464
Grand Egyptian Museum case study: Q&A with Róisín Heneghan
The co-founder of Heneghan Peng Architects discusses lessons learnt designing the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, which is under construction
Co-founder of Heneghan Peng Architects
How did you integrate Giza’s unique landscape and history into a competition-winning scheme?
The site for the Grand Egyptian Museum, located at the edge of the first desert plateau between the Pyramids and Cairo, is defined by a 50-metre level difference, created as the Nile carves its way through the desert to the Mediterranean, a geological condition that has shaped Egypt for over 3,000 years. The design of the museum utilises the level difference to construct a new ‘edge’ to the plateau, a surface defined by a veil of translucent stone that transforms from day to night. The museum exists between the level of the Nile Valley and the plateau, never extending above the plateau. A three-dimensional structure inscribed by a set of visual axes from the site to the three Pyramids defines the framework within which the museum emerges, from the overall scale of the site to the smallest of details.
What considerations are important to a campus-style development in Egypt featuring various indoor and outdoor uses?
The climate of Egypt is hot but not so hot that shade isn’t effective; we wanted to take advantage of this to make more external space and reduce the extent of enclosed interior space. The design of the museum integrates the buildings and landscape so that the visitor experience is one of passing through various sections from exterior to interior. The visitor moves through a monumental forecourt in front of the museum into the entrance court. This shaded outdoor space acts as a ’transitional space’, which in environmental terms, serves as an intermediary between outside conditions and the controlled internal environments. From there, the grand staircase continues the transition from outdoor space and ascends to the exhibition galleries.
Environmental Approach Diagram
This architectural concept translated into an environmental approach; an adaptive control that may be thought of as a wave. Wide variations in temperature and humidity levels necessitated a gradual tightening of outdoor spaces as the visitor moves into shaded, and then indoor spaces. The level of environmental control is gradually increased and enhanced towards the gallery. This dynamic approach provides a series of energy-efficient environments tailored to the specific needs of different areas within the museum.
How might competitors harness Egypt’s history of scientific discovery for a new destination intended to inspire and motivate?
Engage with the history; don’t try to compete with it.
Render Translucent Stone Wall Night
Source: Richard Davies