Museum of Apoxyomenos is a building specifically converted to house one single exhibit: The Athlete of Croatia, a famous 192 cm high bronze sculpture made most likely in 2nd or 1st century BC in a Greek foundry. The sculpture was raised from the sea in the vicinity of the island Lošinj in Northern Adriatic in 1999.
Statue is one of few remaining Greek bronze sculptures from Hellenistic period and one of the best preserved.
Discussion where to display the sculpture has involved different cities, but at the end the choice fell on city of Mali Lošinj. This decision was in line with the Croatian cultural policy from the 1990’s, favoring construction of museums in smaller communities. Museums have demonstrated capacity to generate social interaction and become true public spaces, so it made perfect sense to display the sculpture right next to the place it was discovered.
Chosen location for the museum was Pallazo Kvarner, an existing building forming the historical waterfront and the city’s facade, the “Riva”.
Two elements of this narrative were important for the architectural approach. The first one was that the sculpture found in the sea had actually no connection with the surrounding and it clearly belonged to a very different time and place.
The second one was a curious decision not to build a new building for it, but to use the interior of an existing house instead. Conditions from the Conservation Department even prohibited any intervention on the façade, demanding it to be restored in the original shape. It seemed odd that one of the most magnificent finds from Hellenistic period had to be displayed inside a carefully restored not-so-significant building.
For that reason museum was conceived as a completely independent metal casing, inserted inside the perimeter walls of the existing building. Display in the interior of a building also implied a more intimate presentation of the sculpture.
The inserted element is an exhibition device, dividing the area in 3 different spaces: exhibition space, residual space (service space) and public space.
Exhibition space is created from a predetermined exhibition concept, defining enclosed area of the museum. The outer shape of it is a wrap-up of these spaces.
The residual space, between the metal casing and the walls, is used as administrative and auxiliary space of the museum.
Third is the public space. Ground floor is conceived as a covered extension of the waterfront promenade, open for different uses, from exhibitions to various events.
Dynamics of the waterfront, particularly during the summer months, are not creating the most appropriate background for the museum. Waterfront is a vibrant public space, full with attractions, that are at the same time distractions.
Exhibition space, leading gradually to the sculpture, was conceived as a path.
The competition brief mentioned purification and decontamination of visitors in technical description of air-conditioning and ventilation requirements. It became apparent that the location required a sort of emotional purification as well, to prepare the visitors for the encounter with the sculpture
One of most common ritual forms of purification is a procession. Visitor is led, through a succession of the spaces and gradually prepared for the contact.
Architectural space is seen as a “architectural promenade”, as Corbusier used to call it, as a personal journey through space. Sequence of different spaces creates enough distance between the sculpture and the street but it also creates a sense of anticipation and discomfort, liberating the senses for the encounter.
Journey starts with an escalator, that brings group in the first room with exhibition displays about the sculpture and the find.
The second room is a soft room covered with thick carpet, where the visitors watch the movies.
From there a narrow staircase leads to a periscope room, where one sees the sculpture from below, and in enlarged details on the screen.
The path continues in the olive-tree cladded corridor with displays exhibiting organic material found in the sculpture.
From there the group finally enters the exhibition room with the sculpture.
Journey ends in the last room in the attic, mirroring the view of the bay.
Title: Museum of Apoxyomenos
Location: Mali Lošinj, Croatia
Client: City of Mali Lošinj
Authors: Saša Randić and Idis Turato
Photography: Jure Živković