Reviving NPAK Competition
Our proposal for the design of the CENTRE in Yerevan celebrates and leverages the history and legacy of its predecessor, NPAK, while transforming it into a state of the art, contempo-rary exhibition space and cultural hub.
As an arts and cultural icon, the current structure of NPAK has served symbolically and tangi-bly through its various identities, coalescing differing perspectives and points of view. Over the years, it has played a key role in nurturing a community of thinkers and allowing their actions and impact to ripple out beyond its austere shell. As such, the existing building and institution, retain innate value for us, a sort of iconicity which we’ve chosen to preserve, amplify and transform.
Though preservationist in origin, our vision for the existing building goes well beyond nostal-gia, implicating its formal integrity as a complicit part of a new, surgical design strategy. Our proposal imagines a continuous, voluminous interior world within the existing main structure and annex buildings, where strategically subtracted, stacked and proportionally varied levels of exhibition space, café, bookstore, library, theater, restaurant and roof garden are thread-ed together by a sculptural stair processional. The stair, le promenade architecture, stretches and condenses, unfurls and coils as necessary, transporting exhibit goers from entry down through the open café to ticketing and up to the various sized exhibition halls. The main at-traction remains the iconic large format exhibit space. Here, one can experience large-scale installations through various vantage points. Exhibit goers can walk onto the floor and be immersed in the installation all around them before climbing to the mezzanine, where they can catch an overview glimpse from a different perspective. As such a central theme of this proposal is played out, allowing exhibit goers to engage with the work through varying van-tage points.
The sculptural stair is also formally opportunistic. It engages with the existing structure in two ways - by pushing out through it to register on the exterior of the building as a sculptur-al addition and by relying on the strategically placed large apertures to frame its presence from the exterior. As such, the exterior massing of the building begins to receive a number of new appendages, in addition to existing ones: the stair when it juts out between the main exhibit level and the roof top theater, the glass freight elevator used by the public to access all levels, the entry canopy and the largest of these features, the roof top garden which spans between restaurant at the front and theater in the back. These elements become a kind of sign or syntax communicating the internal world of the CENTRE to the city. They are moments that illuminate at night and allow views to the interior from the street, such as the restaurant facing the Vernissage market, and moments that frame snip-its of city life around for exhibit goers traversing the space inside, such as the stair that pops out into the court-yard of the residential building adjacent. These moments, these vignettes, culminate a design strategy that imagines the new identity of the CENTRE as continuous with that of its legacy, a forward-thinking institution that remains poised to absorb and nurture a diverse range of voices, amplifying and reflecting them back to the city, the country and beyond, ever louder than before.