In May 2021 a new cultural space was opened in Cartagena. Housed inside the Old Town’s Health Centre building, the Roman Forum Museum creates a new access to a 26,000 sqm area that is the largest archaeological park in an urban area in Spain.
Through the careful selection of exhibits laid out in its rooms, visitors can learn all about the history of Cerro del Molinete (the Molinete hill) from life in the old town of Carthago Nova right up to the present day.
The visit weaves its way around a number of important remains from the city’s glorious Roman period. These include the Curia or local senate house with its richly decorated marble floor; the Colonial Forum, the city’s nerve centre whose division into various levels symbolised the hierarchy between the human and the divine; the Isis sanctuary where the mysterious rites of the Egyptian gods were celebrated; the old roads with their cart wheel ruts; the Harbour baths and their magnificent entrance colonnade with its original flooring; and to finish, the Atrium Palace, with its high walls and painted decorations that evoke the great banquets of the Ancient Roman Empire. The new museum is another step towards declaring Cartagena a World Heritage Site.
The project for this new complex was designed by the Temperatura Extremas studio, founded by Atxu Amann, Andrés Cánovas and Nicolás Maruri and its aim was to display the remains found during various excavations on the Molinete hill.
The structure covers three floors. The first, on the ground floor, communicates with the outside world and acts as a reception area for visitors. The main room uses “pure” materials, like steel sheets on the walls, resin for the floors, concrete ceilings and sisal-lined walls which evoke traditional materials and are also sound absorbent. The layout seeks to attract and focus attention on the exhibits and the artificial lighting helps to obtain this effect. The most precious exhibits, the paintings of Apollo and two Muses are located inside two metal, sisal-lined, semi-cylinders, and are lit with surgical precision by Palco Framers. In the rest of the building, the overall lighting has very low and differentiated illumination levels. For the section of Roman road and the exhibit showcases, this reaches 150 lux, whereas for more general circulation areas inside the museum 100 lux is used. The corridors, for example, are illuminated by a delicate downlight created by Underscore luminaires inserted in the false ceilings.
Natural light also filters in through bars and grilles reminiscent of the mashrabiya decorations from the old Arab buildings. Even the luminaires required to ensure emergency lighting were chosen for their minimum visual impact. In fact, Motus luminaires have been positioned discreetly along the visitor trails, sometimes high and sometimes low.
The general atmosphere is therefore subtle, intimate and non-invasive, and leaves visitors to enjoy their visit in peace and quiet.
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