Subtle historical references found in Bernard Tschumi Architects' Alésia Museum
The Battle of Alésia was waged by Julius Caesar in September 52BC against a united league of Gallic residents in a French settlement in Burgundy. A major hill fort - Alésia - was the site of the vicious encounter which was eventually won by the Romans, and it is this historic location which has been transformed by architectural theorist and celebrated designer Bernard Tschumi.
On 23rd March 2012, an opening ceremony will be held for the first phase of the Alésia Museum; a cylindrical band of wooden elements that houses an interpretive information centre. This interactive facility will educate visitors on the events of the Battle of Alésia through a series of active exhibitions and displays, with information accessible to those of all ages.
Great care has been taken here to minimise disruption to the historic site and to form a fitting - and historically accurate - tribute to the violent conflict. As such, the roof of the interpretive centre has been planted with shrubs and grasses in order to minimise visual impact when viewed from a neighbouring hill (the historical position of the Gauls), and a wooden envelope constructed to reference the Roman fortifications of the era. Bernard Tschumi Architects admits: “To be both visible and invisible is the paradox and challenge of the project.”
Plans are underway for a second, corresponding building to act as a more traditional museum. Designs suggest a form of similar cylindrical appearance but clad in stone rather than wood, ‘evoking its trenched position’. This will be located on the hill to mark the location of the Gauls and will house historical objects recovered from the site in an alternative educational approach.
Plans are to sink this second building into the hill itself ‘so that from above it appears as an extension of the landscape’; aside from this, the lush green hills remain largely the same today as in 52BC. The second volume is due to complete in 2015.