he Charged Void
The Charged Void is a design proposal aimed to rethink NPAK according to three keywords: preservation, growth and geometric manipulation.
While the exterior image of the existing building has a clear architectural identity, originally conceived in continuity with its adjacent construction – the Yerevan Project Institute –, NPAK’s interior spaces have progressively become inappropriate, and unable to accommodate multiple events such as exhibitions, performances, lectures, etc. At the same time, the new program suggested by the competition brief invites to radically reconfigure the current spaces of the Center and to enhance its presence in the city.
The first design act implied in The Charged Void is the preservation of the structural and formal articulation of the old building. In order to accommodate a new complex program, one underground floor is created and two more levels are added on top of the existing construction. The main facades, which form a homogeneous ensemble with the Yerevan Project Administrative Building, are totally restored, liberated by later interventions, and integrated with lightweight, transparent volumes. The same can be said for the original structure of the Center. Rather than demolishing and applying a totally different system, the existing concrete frame skeleton has been preserved and implemented with strategic interventions aimed to guarantee stability and flexibility. Only few concrete columns have been sacrificed to host specific functions – see the lecture room and the theatre hall.
The Charged Void not only decided to fully respect the architectural qualities of the old building – form, materials and style. In addition, this proposal aimed to establish a dialogue with the surrounding context, and not to alter the balance between NPAK and the Yerevan Project Building. Any design decision has been made in order to keep and enhance this dialogue.
Parallel to the preservation of NPAK’s current image and materiality, The Charged Void focused attention on change, and on the evolution of the building over time, in order to satisfy future requirements and needs. Some functions, such as the exhibition areas, will probably require different and more spaces in the future, due to the development of new media and technologies. Similarly, the library storage will have to expand its surface in order to house more books.
Based on these premises, The Charged Void embeds a certain amount of space for unexpected, spontaneous and unpredictable uses. To accomplish this goal, the project is based on the sequence of fixed spaces – auditorium, café, restaurant, administration, etc. – and unstable, flexible, indeterminate areas, which correspond to four distinct interior voids distributed all over the building. The end result is a spatial promenade characterized by inner patios, courtyards and terraces, whose climax is the so-called belvedere – a panoramic platform that allows for a spectacular view of Yerevan.
The ground floor acts as covered plaza – here visitors can access all the functions of the Center.
New spaces for contemporary art are created, and more will be in the future, thanks to the high degree of flexibility of the structure.
On the two main facades, a new skin is applied. This metal envelope is not the result of arbitrary decisions, but is a reference to the Armenian traditional ornamentation. In manipulating, abstracting, transforming historical motifs, a unique pattern is generated and applied to the building: a mix of present and future, nostalgia and modernity. This process bridges craft and technology, by allowing the permanence of history within a novel architectural language.