n05 - open air museum, mathendush, libya, 2009-2011

earth samples, libya • 1 •
earth samples, libya visitor centre 1 • 2 •
visitor centre 1 visitor centre 2 • 3 •
visitor centre 2 visitor centre 3 • 4 •
visitor centre 3
step by step visit path survey • 1 •
step by step visit path survey situation plan • 2 •
situation plan plan detail • 3 •
plan detail section detail • 4 •
section detail

n05 - open air museum, mathendush, libya, 2009-2011

mathendush, messak settafet, libya
2009-2011-on hold
università degli studi di roma “la sapienza”, missione archeologica italo-libica nell’acacus e messak
messak project (libya) - sapienza università di roma
dr. savino di lernia, director; dr. marina gallinaro, project manager; dr. alessandro vanzetti, restoration and conservation head
200 m2 + outdoor 2.000 m2
museum and landscape
470.000 eur
tomàs cabral, arch. marco guerra, cyril kamber, antoine lebot, arch. andrea nardi, arch. anna oliva, arch. martina piccolo, gion balthasar von albertini.
giovanni galli, stone advisor; martin rauch and thomas honnerman, rammed earth advisors; massimo de rossi, metal carpentry advisor; gottlieb oberrauch, wood carpentry advisor
2014, arab contemporary, lousiana museum of modern art, humlebaek, denmark
2014, arab contemporary, louisiana museum of modern art
gion balthasar von albertini, ftv



The Messak-Settafet is a plateau characterized by an astonishing black colour, the desert varnish or desert patina.


A dense sinuous net of wadis dissects the plateau: this is the scene of an impressive rock art gallery among the richest in the world.

The engravings, dating from 9000 BC, represent mostly hunting scenes with giraffes, elephants, goats, cows, felines and a crocodiles, a unique cultural testimony of prehistoric art and life.

Though the region was already protected by the Antiquities Law in Libya, oil prospecting activities started in the 1980s with some seismic surveying and the drilling of one exploratory well.

The project Open Air Museum Mathendush has at its core the survey and protection of the area; developed since 2000 by the Italo-Libyan Archaeological Mission, it defines areas of accessibility and strategies for their restoration, while on the other hand cultivating and disseminating knowledge, which is the essential basis for protection and preservation.


The hidden memory of the proposal lives in a route through the desert and a caravansary.


Deserts are inhospitable to men.

Travellers started building artefacts in which to provide rest and protection during the journey and to exchange information with other travellers.

The Persian word kārvānsarā is a compound word combining kārvān (caravan) with sara (palace, building with enclosed courtyards), to which the Turkish suffix -yi is added.

In North Africa there is also the tradition of Qasr, ksar, which identifies fortressed cities or villages as castles as well as granaries, as Qasr al-Haj.

Those buildings, traditionally built on the most elevated areas, were closed massive constructions, with very few openings, hosting wide courtyards like secret and paradisiac worlds: there could be found food, shade, water and vegetation.


Stone blocks, rammed earth walls, wooden roof plots and tents make up the ingredients of a chromatic and tactile orchestration within the context.


The service area is defined by a low wall 1.20 m high; it hides the parked cars, protects visitors from wind and allows an open view towards the landscape.

The service area has a rectangular plan, where services are arranged on “L “shape on the perimeter.

The service spaces are defined by an additional system of low walls and high walls: the open air ones host the start and end point of the visit path, the belvedere towards the rock art scarp, a tuareg craft trade area shadowed by tents; the covered ones host the information area, the room for the tuareg guardians, the services and the technical equipment.

The visit path is defined by punctual stones, which correspond to visit stops panels either to no-trespassing marks.