The winning design for the Gozo Museum project has been unveiled, paving the way for the creation of a new multi-disciplinary museum and cultural centre in Victoria.

The new museum, which is expected to cost around €5 million, will take the place of the Ninu Cremona Boys Lyceum, close to the Arkadia shopping complex.

The school building, an iconic piece of modernist architecture designed in the 1950s by architect Joseph Huntingford, will be retained and expanded in the new design, which was selected from among several submissions by a jury comprising representatives of various stakeholders.

The winning design by Forward Architects, working with Joanna Spiteri Staines from Openworkstudio, envisions the museum as “an urban extension which serves as a social space linking inspiration, art and identity”.

In its report, the jury praised the creation “of a new iconic building that makes a statement and provides a positive contribution to the urban fabric,” while still complementing the 1950s structure.

“Perhaps its strongest point was the interface between the street and the museum complex, as it succeeded in destroying the barrier between outside and inside,” the jury said.

The museum project, which is expected to take around four years to complete and for which EU funding is being sought, is being implemented by the Gozo Ministry and Heritage Malta, with the latter responsible for running the completed museum.

Victoria already has a small cluster of museums dedicated to folklore, archaeology and natural history, but a brief for the new museum describes the project as the first time the island’s various State collections will be brought together into one single narrative.

“The overarching scope is to narrate the story of Gozo and the achievements of its people throughout the island’s history, from early Neolithic times to the present, in an ‘edu-taining’ way,” according to the statement.

The museum’s permanent exhibition will explore four main themes relating to the history of Gozo over 6,000 years: daily life, belief systems, the natural and built environment and artistic creations and performances.

Exhibits will bring together collections from the existing museums in Victoria, as well as items purchased or donated from private collections.

The art collection, however, is described at present as “practically non-existent”, with a few pieces gathered from temporary exhibitions and government buildings, or purchased with the Gozo Museum in mind.

The museum is hoping to expand the collection further in the coming years.

In terms of presentation, the new museum promises to make use of new technologies to offer hands-on experiences, recognising that visitors can no longer be seen as “passive recipients of what the museum has to offer”. The centre will also include a library and a 150-seat auditorium.

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