The Lodge Museum Competiton in Chichen Itza, mexico. 2008
The design of the lodge-museum of Chichen Itza stem's from the attempt to redefine the term 'museum'. Along with the question, What is a museum? and How is the new interpretation of the term 'museum' seen in a place like Chichen Itza?
This project offers a different point of view. The museum is no longer a closed space where items are being displayed on walls in order to show the Maya culture, but a place to experience main events in our life that were also significant for the Maya people. The museum will serve as a meeting of two civilizations where today's visitors will experience the Maya culture.
One of the main motifs in the Maya culture and in the morphology of Chichen Itza in particular, is the relationship between a person and his surroundings and between a person and the cosmic space. The mysterious set of structures in Chichen Itza originated from the knowledge of astronomy by the Maya people. This knowledge had significant value on the Maya culture in all religious and social aspects.
The studying of celestial events, such as solar and lunar eclipses, and astral bodies (especially Venus) outlined a whole social program which nowadays leaves us only with the physical remains – the monuments of Chichen Itza.
The lodge-museum invites the visitors to revitalize the experience of observing the cosmic space and the astral bodies that for many years interested the Maya people, and let Chichen Itza become again an authentic night experience.
The analysis of the site led to three main subjects that affect the design of the lodge-museum and its location:
1. Context – the city of Chichen Itza is spread over a wide space which is three times bigger than the citadel area and farther from it towards the south-west.
2. Topography – most of the buildings are located in high places in relation to their surrounding.
3. Layout – some groups of buildings at the site are aligned to groups of buildings located farther away, when it appears that each group of buildings is aligned to the horizon from which an astral body or a constellation can be seen.
The lodge-museum of Chichen Itza is located along with the other monuments, at a higher level in relation to its surroundings and in the middle, between the citadel and the other parts of the city in the south-western direction in order to expose those parts to visitors.
The lodge-museum combines four symmetrical structures surrounding a large courtyard. Between the structures there are gaps which enable one to gaze at the horizon from the courtyard itself to each direction from which celestial events were viewed in Chichen Itza.
The exterior of the lodge-museum looks just like one of the other monuments in the site and it resembles the set of the existing structures of its size, shape and material (its length and width match the size of the temple of Kukulcan and its height matches the height of the Nunnery), in order that the structure will not outshine the citadel,
From the inner space towards the courtyard, the entire frontage of the building at the lower floors, are either open or transparent whereas the upper floor opens towards the citadel and the landscape.
The entire building is constructed of a double wall system made of massive local stones. This system contains all the infrastructures needed (electricity, water, ventilation and drainage) and provides thick layers of isolation from the surroundings. All the paths between the floors are roofed and open so there is no need to exit and re-enter the building in order to reach the upper levels.
The drainage system is divided into two. The first system collects the rain water from the roofs through the double wall system and into an underground water hole which provides the building without a need of another source of water. The second system collects the rain water into a pool located at the main courtyard and through underground channels and leads outside the building to a lower place nearby.
The lodge-museum enriches the visitors experience at Chichen Itza so that at dawn it is possible to look towards the citadel and the landscape, to visit the site during the daytime and to return at night for special social events which includes the astronomical experience that takes place in the main courtyard beneath the sky.