Interview with Cesar Diaz, Construction Superintendent of The National Museum of Oman

July 27, 2016 | Exhibitions, Museums

Cesar Diaz is an architect in the department of Business Exploration at ACCIONA Producciones y Diseño (APD). He has worked for the company as Construction Superintendent for the exhibition fit-out works of The National Museum of Oman. He has participated as well in projects such as the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow (Russia) and Msheireb Museums in Doha (Qatar).

SHORT BIOGRAPHY

Architect by the University of Seville and Master in Architecture and Historical Heritage by the University of Seville.

Before being part of APD, he worked as a freelance architect, gaining experience principally in the field of architectural heritage and in the design of buildings for cultural purposes.

In APD, Cesar has worked on several international museum and exhibition projects, undertaking various tasks related to the technical development of the design, organization and control of the execution.

Museo Nacional de OmánWhat is the visitor to the National Museum of Oman going to find?

The National Museum of Oman is an extremely rich museum from the point of view of its contents, clearly presented and organized. This will surely satisfy different kinds of visitors. For the tourist on his first visit to Oman, the Museum will offer him at one gaze all the keys to understanding and beginning to know a country that is rich in history, heritage and cultural relations with other civilizations since Ancient Times. For the Omani visitors, their National Museum will allow them to contemplate, carefully displayed, valuable pieces of their heritage, organized to illustrate the history of their country and to highlight their achievements as a cultural, peaceful and developed nation.

Has been working as a Construction Superintendent in this project your biggest professional challenge up to date?

Without a doubt.

Museo Nacional de OmánWhat was the greatest challenge for you in this project?

To maintain as an objective for this country the construction of an exhibition of the highest rigor and quality, conceived as a legacy for future generations, at the level of the most important European and North American museums.

You’ve lived since the beginning of the project in Muscat for the last two years. What is it like living in a country like Oman?

Oman is a very beautiful and friendly country, with a rich history and for me an unexpected natural beauty. I wasn’t able to dedicate as much time to know it as it deserves, but I hope to spend some vacation time there in the future.

Museo Nacional de OmánHow many people were involved in the development and execution of the museography of the Museum?

It is difficult to give an exact figure, since so many colleagues and suppliers have participated in the project, on and off-site, but I guess around 200 people.

What are the most representative artifacts of the collection?

The National Museum of Oman is fundamentally a museum of artifacts and its main value is the quality and size of the collection. I am not a specialist to tell which are the most valuable artifacts in the Museum’s collection, but some are the pieces that most called the team’s attention and with which we developed a special relation: the Mihrab from the 16th century which was brought in the Museum from a mosque in ruins in Wadi Bani Khalid, in the interior of Oman, or the reproduction of one of the wooden balconies on the waterfront of Mattrah, which we have reconstructed with local carpenters using the same materials that were originally used more than 100 years ago, or the beautiful head stones with ancient inscriptions that few people nowadays are able to read.

What are the most outstanding technological innovations of the Museum? How do they engage the interaction of the visitor?

Museo Nacional de OmánI will talk about the role of the audiovisual elements in the Museum a little later on. Of these, the most important innovation is the use of 4K technology to produce an audiovisual that, among other things, contains an impressive collection of Oman aerial views filmed by APD in collaboration with the Royal Oman Police, which provided pilots and helicopters. Apart from the audiovisuals, an enormous effort was made to update the museographic concepts traditionally related to the way artifacts are exhibited: subtle display cases and supports, elegant yet expressive graphic panels, delicate positioning of each piece in the display case to enhance the result and to maximize integration, gracefulness and beauty. The final achievement is a manner of exhibiting and contextualizing the artifacts that will grab the visitors’ attention and captivate their interest.

How do you achieve a balance between the display of the historical and cultural heritage of a country and the use of state-of-the-art formats and languages such as the audiovisual?

A tremendous effort was made by those involved in integrating the technological means to serve the collection and the coherence of the museographic narrative. In general, this is a Museum that requires that the audiovisual elements be sleek and discreet, the spotlight must be for the artifacts. However, the audiovisual elements are all around the Museum, assuming their proper relevance and providing the necessary, complementary information. I believe it is a well-designed museum with audiovisuals, more than an audiovisual showpiece. The most important exception in the production is the 4K film that impressively resumes the history of Oman in 12 minutes. This is probably the most stunning audiovisual that can be experienced today in the country, and was executed with the utmost rigor and creativity.

Museo Nacional de OmánThe National Museum of Oman is the first museum adapted for visually impaired visitors in the entire Middle East. What are the characteristics from the point of view of accessibility?

Those responsible for the Museum were especially sensitive about the experience for special visitors being as fulfilling as for anybody else, which aligns with APD’s care for social innovation. The National Museum of Oman is the first in the Middle East to display resources for the visually impaired and the first in Oman to be completely accessible to persons with reduced mobility. These persons will be able to visit the Museum with complete autonomy, without being excluded from any part of the exhibition. The Museum’s signage includes touch panels and others that are especially contrasted. Each exhibition room contains books in Braille so that the blind can access the information contained in the texts and graphics, and objects which they can touch to understand the artifacts on display. The audiovisuals are connected to magnetic induction loops that help those with impaired hearing.

Is there any project that has especially affected you?

Museo Nacional de OmánIn my entire career, and I feel privileged for this, the last project is always the one that affects me most. At this moment it is the National Museum of Oman, and I hope this situation continues to be the same for me in the future.

What challenges lie ahead for you on a professional level?

I think that the experience that APD has gained in this museum and in those that have been executed simultaneously will allow us to take on new more complex projects using the new skills we have acquired. Projects as demanding and passionate as these offer new opportunities to learn more, gain greater technical abilities and take on greater challenges.