BAR was approached by the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI) to develop a design for a museum, conservation office and storage facility at the Parco Archeologico di Ercolano outside of Naples, Italy. While these buildings are a vital component to an overall scheme, the central goal of the project is to expand the current archeological excavation, recover valuable buried history, and to create a catalyst for future exploration. These goals inspired a vision of the project as a building set within a terraced landscape. One that recreates the ancient sea front, bringing the town back to the way it was during ancient times, and to release it from beneath the earth where it is currently buried.
The conceptual approach for the design of the Herculaneum Museum draws from two signature features in the surrounding landscape. The first is imagining the building as a set of landscape terraces, a language found along the coast of Campania and one that creates an opportunity to discreetly hide the program. This parti of building as landscape terraces allows the architecture to not compete with the ancient town and to prioritize the importance of the archeology of the site. The second approach comes from the idea of experiencing the project by traveling underground the way the first archeologists did, through tunneling down in the earth and discovering artifacts buried in the tufa. These two concepts combine to create a design that is able to mediate the complex relationship between the ancient town and modern city while also affording a project design that is most appropriate for its purpose and location.