BIHAR MUSEUM

State Government of Bihar

Patna, Bihar

2012

200,000 sqft

Institutional, Cultural

Snohetta

Architizer

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A competition entry in collaboration with Snohetta, the state museum is designed as an iconic setting for the invaluable historic artefacts housed in the erstwhile Patna Museum. The design creates a play of inward and outward spaces that connect the museum to the city. The spatial hierarchy draws from the interplay of sacred and secular between public, private and transitional spaces inherent in traditional Indian architecture. Through this project we wanted to underscore the relevance of museums in a contemporary democratic setting. Working with the proportions of the site, located on an important city street front, we imagined the monumentality as inclusive and horizontal, rather than the more traditional, vertical and exclusive expressions. This public domain crucially promotes a sense of collective ownership by engaging a broader audience in a deeper conversation.

The proportions of the site, located on an important street front in Patna allow for a horizontal, inclusive monumentality to the museum architecture. Hailed as the first republic and the first democracy in Indian history, Bihar provides an apt setting for a museum that can celebrate the values of democracy by the way it engages with the public domain. The museum engages with the urban context and invites curious bystanders to the site, creating an important public edge that is flexible and spontaneous. This permeability is achieved by evoking the ghats of Ganga at the periphery of the site, a place of congregation on festivals and public events, instead of the ubiquitous ‘boundary wall’ that cuts off most of our public cultural institutions from the public. 

The museum, in its spirit, is evocative of the word ‘Bihar’, said to be derived from Vihar as in ‘and abode in nature’ or 'bahar' as in ‘the resurgence of spring’. It is striking with its earthy red tones of local terracotta running across its length, nestled in a landscape of lush green. The museum is a monument to a new chapter of resurgence in Bihar’s history

The design departed from an insular narrative of static distinctions between object and viewer through visual interconnections and flexible spatial configurations. The spatial hierarchy draws from the interplay of sacred and secular, public, private and transitional spaces inherent in traditional Indian architecture. On the whole, as a horizontal experience this museum is like walking through the park, in a changing sequence of discrete spaces linked by the ever present natural environment.

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