The Grand Budapest Museum
With the digital art community growing rapidly and the knowledge transfer offered by cloud based technology, the brief for a modern and contemporary art museum in Budapest initially left us somewhat sceptical. Far from being against building museums, our criticism was specifically based on the size of the project and its very location. The brief called for not less than 30,000 sqm of facility space including galleries, archives, workshops, restaurants and shops to be accommodated on the green grounds of Budapest’s largest public park. Out of all places.
With sustainability seemingly hard to achieve we started our massing diagrams with the objective to minimise the environmental impact of the building. Our initial concept was to lift the structure up by means of piers and stretched cables creating a floating art bridge that would leave the natural habitat intact. After a cost management review we realised that we could have hardly delivered the area schedule listed in the brief with such challenging structure.
In the attempt of minimising both the building’s footprint and deflection of horizontal structural members we went back to the classical roots of large span vault construction. What we found was rather inspiring.
Domes are naturally self supporting load bearing structures, which only became unpopular during the late XIX and XX Centuries due to the high cost of temporary supports, labour and the then thriving steel manufacturing industry.
We believe that given the high levels of embedded energy and carbon dioxide, steel is to be limited as much as possible in newly built projects. On the other hand timber and concrete offer better performance in terms of environmental footprint and long term energy performance. In particular, our proposal is based on the use of offsite manufactured double curved reinforced shells and ribs to be assembled and connected with on site cast concrete.
What started as a discussion about sustainability and structure provided in fact inspiring reference for the project’s massing concept. A series of spherical voids (domes) are subtracted from a vaguely box-like volume.
The result of the boolean operation then gets sliced into different floors in accordance to the functional layout. Despite the deep floor plate, the domes allow abundant natural lighting and natural ventilation. Minimising the energy loads for lighting and cooling. The final cut is a gigantic concrete sponge where art and nature are interwoven with each other.
Competition by: Budapest City Council