all images by adjaye associates
the EMOWAA will also be the site of a major archaeology project, which is set to get underway in 2021 and involves a wide range of partners including local communities, the benin royal court, the government of edo state, and the national commission for museums and monuments (NCMM). the archaeological excavation forms part of an initiative titled ‘rediscovering the history of benin’, which was announced by the legacy restoration trust (LRT), the british museum, and adjaye associates.
adjaye associates will undertake the initial concept and urban planning work on the new museum, and assist in the assembly of a team of professionals in nigeria. the firm’s vision is to use archaeology as a means of connecting the new museum into the surrounding landscape, by revitalizing and incorporating the surviving remains of the historic city’s walls, moats, and gates. the museum also recognizes the importance of the site’s existing archaeological remains. consequently, the digging of the foundations will require careful excavations to prepare the site for the new museum building.
the new EMOWAA draws inspiration from the region’s historical architectural typologies and establishes its own courtyard in the form of a public garden, suitable for gatherings, ceremonies, and events. ‘the galleries float above the gardens and are articulated by a series of elevated volumes — an inversion of the courtyard typology — within each of which sit pavilions which take their form from fragments of reconstructed historic compounds,’ explains adjaye associates. ‘these fragments allow the objects themselves to be arranged in their pre-colonial context and offer visitors the opportunity to better understand the true significance of these artifacts within the traditions, political economy and rituals enshrined within the culture of benin city.’
‘I am humbled and deeply inspired to design the new EMOWAA, a project that will establish a new museum paradigm for africa,’ continues david adjaye. ‘from an initial glance at the preliminary design concept, one might believe this is a traditional museum but, really, what we are proposing is an undoing of the objectification that has happened in the west through full reconstruction. applying our research into benin’s extraordinary ruins, the city’s orthogonal walls and its courtyard networks, the museum design reconstructs the inhabitation of these forms as pavilions that enable the recontextualization of artifacts. decoupling from the western museum model, the EMOWAA will perform as a reteaching tool — a place for recalling lost collective memories of the past to instill an understanding of the magnitude and importance of these civilizations and cultures.’
floor plan / level 0
the archaeology project commences in 2021 and will continue for a period of five years to enable the timely construction of the museum. initial work will involve extensive consultations with, and input from, local stakeholders — residents, historians, artists, and members of craft guilds — in a series of workshops, to help establish local priorities and interests. initial archaeological work includes surveys of the museum site and the wider surroundings (LIDAR and geophysical surveys), to more fully understand the sub-surface remains and to help target excavations. the focus of excavations and fieldwork will be at the new museum site and in the immediate surroundings. excavated objects will become part of the EMOWAA museum collections and displays, and all objects will remain in nigeria.
floor plan / level +1
name: edo museum of west african art (EMOWAA)
location: benin city, nigeria