Atomik were invited to submit a competition entry for a new Turkestan Museum in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi.
The brief for this ‘Turk World Centre’ was to design the first museum to cover all aspects and history of the Turk-speaking people throughout the world. The design had to acknowledge and reflect the variety and richness of Turk history culture and traditions. The new museum also had to celebrate the story of the Turk people, their origins, pathways, genealogy and historic communities, whilst also enabling the visitor to imagine their futures represented in over 20 countries around the world. A key point of the brief also asked that the museum should unify and embody the diversity of the Turkic world in its architecture taking inspiration from the traditional architecture of its regions and crafts in a way that celebrates the past whilst creating a new unique identity for the museum itself.
As the museum was to be located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site it was important that the design didn’t threaten its international status. The museum, although an important addition to Turkestan, could not compete with the mosques and the mausolea of the historical site. The early idea was to utilise the local materials and techniques which would allow the building to sit comfortably and respectfully within its location, landscape and avoid incongruous additions to the city skyline. Whilst important, we also wanted to ensure that the museum was not apologetic and had a respectful architectural presence of its own.
A building representing all the people and facets of the Turkic World needed to be all encompassing and democratic in its concept, where the centre is to human-scale and outward looking. We initially looked at Mahmud al-Kashgari’s 11th century map of the Turkic speaking world, which represents the variety of communities united by language.
We imagined a building that was made up of individual elements to create an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts. A rich colourful interior that reflects the culture of the Turkic people and an exterior that was an expression of the diversity of the museum but respectful of its location.
We took inspiration from the traditional Ikat fabric of Central Asia as a device for ordering the architecture of the museum.
The design used traditional brick to help root the museum to the location and avoid creating an incongruous appearance. By contrast the interiors of the building reflect the richness of the Turkic world both its history and its contemporary ideals. The walls to the internal courtyards would be covered in bright coloured ceramics, textiles, from all corners of the Turkic speaking world.
The final design is a simple yet bold result of a strong concept. The powerful and colourful interiors provide a new museum reflective of its culture and diversity, in stark contrast to the simple brick façade that reveres the past and location.