The new Pre-Columbian Gold Museum — located at the heart of downtown San José, within one of the most iconic buildings in Costa Rica — is a subterranean modern masterpiece building below the central Plaza de la Cultura. It holds one of the most relevant archaeological collections in Costa Rica and the world. Its new design reimagines the museum experience as a space for learning and interaction.
In an entire museum overhaul, the first since 2002, the design team worked closely with the museum’s museographers and museologists to create a concept based on the notions of exploration and amazement, emphasizing the buildings iconic triangular grid and raw materiality, through the use of concrete, wood and a space grey finish, creating an optimal contrast for the display of the gold artifacts that are the main focus of the museum.
The project was ultimately about respect and human connections across the ages: to bring the pre-Columbian people and their living ancestors to life through meaningful interaction with the visitor. It was key that each gold, ceramic or stone artifact, as well as newly integrated technologies, be carefully placed in the space in a way that would express and display the history and overall story of pre-Columbian Costa Rica in a whole new light; while at the same reusing 95% of all display cases from the old museum space.
A continuous ribbon element leads the visitor through the exhibition spaces in a fluid, intuitive and yet free manner while incorporating new advanced LED lighting in a way of creating something new that at the same time lives harmoniously with the existing.
The final result is a new museum experience and intriguing educational environment, in a space that incorporates an ideal mix of exhibition, resting areas, learning areas and new interactive technologies. The design incorporates an ideal mix of exhibition spaces, resting and interpretation areas, and new interactive technologies which all complement one another to create the new museum experience and intriguing educational environment suitable for one of the region’s most important archaeology museums.
Federico Montero (design lead & manager), Fabio Araya (technical director), Karolina Espinoza (project architect)
T Kondos Associates (lighting), Alessandro García (MEP), Pulse (interactive design)
HBuilders (general contractor), Jorcasa (furniture & special installations)