Layal Merhi Y4

OVERHEAD MUSEUM | London, England | Unit 21 | 2015

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Overhead Museum


The project is a photography museum and balloon-scape in the Barbican Area at the heart of London. The project will act as both a community project as well as a modern age leisure garden thanks to the contemporary use of Hot Air Balloons.

The intention behind the project is to maximize perception in both its physical and intellectual value for whomever visits the area. The intervention will house gallery and exhibition spaces, screening rooms, a cafe, outdoor public spaces as well as four hot air balloons that will act as: part of the circulation in their static form and become spaces themselves in their dynamic – floating – form. The project will also hold rental spaces to the local artistic community which will bring revenue as well as expand the artistic value of the Barbican area (Barbican Centre, London Museum etc). The museum will aim to be a pivotal structure that is inviting, delicate and imposing at once.




An uninformed perception of the Barbican creates a new experience. Absorbing the space & place for the first time creates a freshness that does not exist with the familiarity most people have of the area. This ‘tabula rasa’ state of mind creates a purity that constructs an unusual image of the Barbican. The perception is understood in terms of dynamism, permanence, and connectivity.




With awareness and knowledge, the space holds a different character. The same qualities of dynamism, permanence, and connectivity create a different image. There is a form of bias to the space, but there is also plenty that is lost. The informed perception of the Barbican creates another code to understand the area, where even when the same spaces are traversed, the experience varies significantly.






Mapping the Barbican with reconstructed perceptions creates a new experience of the context. The upside-down concept is introduced and mental maps are reinterpreted & superimposed to reveal a varied form of mapping the urban experience. The circular representations go beyond the flat map while also creating the foundation for a re-thought interpretation of the insertion of architecture in the context of the Barbican.




The proposal takes over the unused platform of the Barbican Station and connects Aldersgate Street Charterhouse square, creating a public corridor through the station extending its existing boundaries to allow for its public integration; which naturally reinforces the public use of the project.




The proposal has been tailored to fit into the challenges building in a complex site, particularly that of the Barbican Station. Considering the tight nature of the plot, excavating underneath the south platform of the station could serve as additional space where the proposal can be erected and would therefore be cradled by the station and become more integrated into the existing structures.




The materials of focus will be aluminum for the balloon structures and plastic and timber for the underground museum. The use of such materials will allow the existence of different experiences of perception for their reflective, translucent and opaque qualities.


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