Led by Sir David Adjaye, the Edo Museum of Western Art design by Adjaye Associates plans on revitalizing and incorporating the surviving remains of the walls, moats and gates of the historic city, seen throughout the modern city today.
The project is a part of a wider scheme to revitalize the cultural core of Benin City by Driven by the Governor of Edo State. The project initiative by The Legacy Restoration Trust (LRT), the British Museum and Adjaye Associates, focuses on reuniting Benin art works currently within international collections, as well as investigating and presenting the wider histories that these represent. The project is to realize a world-class museum, art gallery and research center which collectively will be known as the Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA).
The project is planned on a site adjacent to the Oba’s Palace, in Benin City. The museum design reconstructs the inhabitation of Benin’s extraordinary ruins, the city’s orthogonal walls and its courtyard networks, as pavilions that enable the re-contextualization of artefacts. The galleries float above the gardens in a series of elevated volumes, as a contrast to the courtyard typology of the city . The pavilions within each of these volumes, take their form from fragments of reconstructed historic compounds, that allow themselves to be arranged in their pre-colonial context. This lets the visitor see into the origin of the artefacts and their true significance. This project will look at new ways of engaging local communities, through workshops, publications, talks and digital content, reconnecting local people with their history and highlighting the significance of the history of the Kingdom of Benin, one of the most important and powerful pre-colonial states of West Africa.
“I am humbled and deeply inspired to design the new EMOWAA, a project that will establish a new museum paradigm for Africa.” Says Sir David Adjaye, “ From an initial glance at the preliminary design concept, one might believe this is a traditional museum but, really, what we are proposing is an undoing of the objectification that has happened in the West through full reconstruction. Applying our research into Benin’s extraordinary ruins, the city’s orthogonal walls and its courtyard networks, the museum design reconstructs the inhabitation of these forms as pavilions that enable the re-contextualization of artefacts. Decoupling from the Western museum model, the EMOWAA will perform as a reteaching tool – a place for recalling lost collective memories of the past to instil an understanding of the magnitude and importance of these civilizations and cultures,”