Hania making strides into the new century

Housed for the past 46 years in a Franciscan monastery on Halidon Street in Hania, the vast archaeological collection there represents part of Cretan history. Eventually the works will be transferred to the new Archaeological Museum of Hania, to be built in the historic Halepa quarter, overlooking the sea and not far from the old port. A modern building in tune with the times, the new museum will have a discreet but distinctive exterior. The design is by Theofanis Bobotis, who also designed the recently built Patras Museum. Bobotis and his team are now competing to build the Polykentriko Museum in Vergina. Museums are not the only constructions he has worked on in recent years. His Observatory building on Solonos Street, with its wood and glass facade, is a head turner, and won the FX International Interior Design award for a retail space in 2007. Bobotis is also working on the extension to the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport, a complex 10,000-square-meter project, the new Panionios soccer ground, a freight station in northern Italy and has submitted a study for the Greek railway management company ERGOSE. His team has created a bookbinding factory in Italy and mixed-use tower buildings in Dubai and has been invited by the government of South Korea to draw up a master plan for a city. The team’s work is familiar to Athenians from the KAT and Tavros stations on the electric railway line. The Bobotis team won the competition to build the Hania Museum three years ago. Now, as the study is in its final stages, the ephorate has decided that more space is needed in order to display the large number of exhibits. The architects made use of vertical space to create a 14-square-meter loft, which the Central Archaeological Council approved at its last meeting. «When designing museums, you have to keep an eye on the future, since new finds may come to light and you may have to change the ways things are displayed. With that in mind, the museum was designed to allow for added space or different uses of space,» says the architect. Now the architects are waiting for the study phase to end so that the competition for the construction work can be announced. Construction could start in 2008 and be finished within two years. The museum is to cover 6,500 square meters, which includes 1,800 square meters for exhibition halls, 140 square meters for the gallery and a 140-seat amphitheater. «We were asked to design the museum according to a specific plan determined by the Culture Ministry, which stipulated the purposes of the spaces we had to incorporate,» said Bobotis. What matters most – with both the Hania museum and the Patras museum – is that the initial goal has been achieved: making museums that are accessible to the public. The building, explained the architect, comprises «two discrete linear monolithic masses rising from the earth, a symbolic reference to vestiges of civilization beneath the ground and also a bioclimatic choice. One section has two wings and is set on a corner; the other has one wing, and is positioned like a barrier in front of the opening framed by the other, so as to create an atrium. Around the atrium will be the exhibition space and the entrance, which ensures the continuity of the museum’s corridors.» «The austere geometry of the buildings will be softened by the earthy look of the ceramic material used in the interior,» explained Bobotis. The atrium, also a reference to traditional Greek buildings, will allow natural light into the museum. The administrative offices, storerooms and workshops will go in the space between the two sections, along with a cafe and sales point which will operate independently.

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