Museum of Light

Designing a Light Museum was an exciting and fulfilling topic for the students. It allowed them to explore the inspiring relationship between light and science, art, technology, and architecture while reflecting on their Egyptian heritage. The project’s location on a peninsula near the monuments of Abu Simbel, which celebrate sunlight during the winter and spring solstices, made it an even more fitting endeavor.

Light, a universal topic with transcultural significance, touches on profound subjects like poetry and philosophy as well as pragmatic concerns like energy, health, and economics. There are very few true “Light Museums” in the world. Most often, technical or science museums cover this topic, or art museums showcase artists’ interpretations of light. However, no museum or institute tells the story of light in all its consequences and expressions through a holistic experiential concept from building to exhibition. Abu Simbel, with its historical and mythological links to the power of light and its dam generating the country’s electricity, is an ideal location.

The question arises: can we construct a new building in such a historical context? My answer is unequivocally yes, but it leads to a finer question: should the new building be visible or hidden? This is a common challenge for architects working in historical contexts. The students’ excellent answers to this are showcased in the exhibition.

The project aimed to raise awareness among the students about the economic and social benefits that first-class contemporary architecture can bring to local communities. Long-term sustainability involves providing opportunities for people to thrive, encouraging local businesses to grow, and attracting outside investments. The project also included a Life Long Learning Institute, where visiting researchers and artists working with light could engage with local people, children, and youth projects. This is how architecture can extend its program to support regional development, providing a space for education, knowledge, tourism, business, and human exchange.

The bravery of repositioning the monuments to construct the Aswan Dam set a precedent for extending the story with a new visionary attraction of contemporary architecture, linked to Egypt’s ancient and modern history.

The bachelor project is the highlight for the students, marking the end of a long and sometimes stressful period of study. The rewarding feeling of deep achievement follows and cannot be taken away. Congratulations to all students for their enthusiastic work, and special thanks to my teaching assistants for their support this year, Abdelrahman Ghoneim and Marian Ghali.

Assoc. Prof. Ruairí O’Brien

Cairo 09.06.24