Design Lab
For Interior Planning & Strategy

Piscina Mirabilis, Italy 2020

Idea Competition

The design proposal was developed with the premise to honor the ancient architecture of the Roman water reservoir in shape, scale, and materiality. With the intention of embracing the eroded aesthetic of the remaining ruin, in its weathered patina and original finishes, we employed modest and subtle techniques to modernize the space. In this way we were able to successfully offer the functions of a Contemporary Art Museum, while maintaining prime visibility of the space’s historical architecture, respecting the existing overall layout, topography, general vegetation, former entrances and access points. Our sensitivity towards preserving the genius loci is also visible in the carefully studied transition details between the old and the new. We chose to truly celebrate this inherent juxtaposition by emphasizing the bold contrast between these epochal elements with clever lighting. Here, using carefully balanced measures, we create an all-encompassing opportunity for visitors to experience new life injected into a timeless space.
Regarding circulation through the space, we expect all visitors to access the museum complex over an entry terrace. This terrace will offer 180-degree views over the lake of MISENO. It was our goal to provide the visitors with tools to orientate themselves within and also outside the complex, using building massing and clearly identifiable vertical circulation within the confines. In refreshing the space we were careful to give visitors indications of its original state and history: vistas on top of the with signinum roofing terrace are proportioned to indicate the amount of the building that is dug into the tuff hill, thus hidden. After moving through the entry visitors are invited to make their way down to the exhibition floor along a cascading stairway, or equally interesting round piston elevator. Here they will be able to get a first impression of the impressive ancient terracotta covered pillar construction with arches and vaulted ceilings, and then will be prompted to find his/her way in the labyrinth like space. Finally, a wide stair, opposite the initial stairway opens to a gallery like, raised, well visible book & museum store. At this point the visitor is able to exit the exhibition, offering a refreshing alterative the way they came from. Due to the Versatility of our modernization the space easily lends itself to multipurpose uses in addition to daily functions. The interchangeable nature of a suspended display system, cantilevering from the cross-shaped building pillars in the former water tank, allows for different layouts, making the space appropriate for different contextual zoning and possible exhibitions. Weather and Sun are also accounted for, the new metal clad entry-building on the reservoir’s roof also offers sufficient, fluidly overlapping conference and café functions both indoors and outdoors, making the space ideal for climate flexibility.