Salt Lake Visitor Center Competition

Location : Larnaca, Cyprus
Building type : Institutional
Size    : 400 s.m.
Schedule     : Winter 2008

The project attempts to create a space that can reinforce to the visitor the experience of the transformative landscape that surrounds the site. The aim is to create a building that becomes part of the ecosystem and transforms itself as the salt lake shifts from water to salt.

The topography and the contours of the land become the underlying idea that determines the morphology of the building. The floor is a platform that responds to the existing bumps and dips of the natural landscape. An interplay between the natural and the manmade. The platform appears to be weightless floating in the landscape. A series of glass panels on the platform enclose an interior space and allow the visitor to observe the landscape beyond. These respond to the contours on the floor and allow for an intermediary outdoor ‘balcony’ between the edge of the building and the interior space. Further inside sliding panels can accommodate exhibition material but also reconfigure the space.

A metal fence lines the perimeter of the platform which helps to secure the building but also support the deciduous plants. During the summer months the colorful leaves create a new boundary which protects from the sun while allowing for cross ventilation. This helps maintain cooler temperatures inside.

During the winter months the fence remains the physical boundary but without the leaves. The building ‘shrinks’ and the glass wall becomes the new boundary for the user. Plenty of light enters the building and sunlight warms up the space during the winter months.

The roof is mostly flat except for the entrance where it lifts up to signify the access point into the building. It follows the outline of the floor and is planted with grass for effective insulation and to create a surface whose color fluctuates with the seasons. Openings in the roof allow for the existing trees with tall slender trunks to penetrate the building.

The building intervenes in the landscape in a conforming way, and does not detract from the existing landscape. It respects and reinforces the unique nature of the particular site.