Madinat al Zahra Museum
Location: Cordoba, Spain (Europe)
Architect: Sobejano Architects S.L.P, Fuensanta Nieto & Enrique Sobejano
Site size: 9'125 m²
The tenth-century palace city of Madinat al Zahra is widely considered to be one of the most significant early Islamic archaeological sites in the world, and the most extensive in Western Europe. Excavations at the site are still ongoing, and the museum was conceived as a place to interpret the site and display the archaeological findings, as well as to serve as a training and research centre and the headquarters of the archaeological team. A refined and subtle design by the architectural firm Nieto Sobejano, the museum complex blends seamlessly into the site and the surrounding farmland: a series of rectangles composed of walls, patios and plantings which, taken together, seem more like a landscape than a building. The architects took the ground plan of three excavated buildings as a starting point, as though the museum had been waiting to be revealed from the ground. Visitors are guided through a sequence of covered spaces and voids: the main public functions are arranged in a cloister around a broad patio. Two more courtyards define the research centre and the external exhibition area respectively. The impact of the building and its audiovisual programming is already evident in the large numbers of people who come from all parts of the country to visit the museum and hear its story of tolerance and convivencia under Islamic rule in Spain.