The prolonged construction of the Grand Egyptian Museum

Ten years of work were required, and a monumental retaining wall to hold up the slope in which the complex of the museum is embedded.

This article was originally published on Domus 1060, September 2021. 

The Grand Egyptian Museum, located just 2 kilometres north of the Giza Pyramids, originates from the need to build a new home for the over 100,000 pharaonic artefacts that currently sit in the 1904 Egyptian Museum in central Cairo, or in storage. The 2003 architecture competition was won by Dublinbased architects Heneghan Peng in a joint venture with Arup and Buro Happold. After five years of design, the construction contract was awarded to a partnership formed by Besix and Orascom. Works started in 2011 and have involved up to 4,000 workers on site per day (the museum’s inauguration is scheduled for October). One of the principal challenges was the construction of a 30-metre-high retaining wall, basically a sand dam, which holds up the escarpment into which the new building complex has been inserted. 

Suspended floors, sometimes cantilevering over the entrance courtyard and spanning 40 metres, were built for the main permanent gallery spaces. The grand stair, which measures 100 metres wide at its base and rises 24 metres high, is itself a gallery space for heavy artefacts. Other major challenges included the construction of the 30,000-square-metre folded plate roof in white reinforced concrete, with spans of up to 45 metres across galleries. The gable end facades and “windows” facing the pyramids, also represented a challenging constructional feature. These are up to 45 metres wide and 20 metres high, yet they are held up by tensioned cables with a diameter of no more than 20 millimetres. 

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