Petroleum Museum of Venezuela
1984 - Petroleum Museum - Urban Complex
Cabimas, Zulia State, Venezuela
Commissioned by: Petróleos de Venezuela S.A.-Maraven (Venezuela state oil company)
Floor Area: 55,144 m2 - Site Area: 500,000 m2
 
Awards: “Best Unbuilt Project” prize at the VIII Architecture National Biennial of Venezuela, 1987.
Exhibited at: the 1985 Biennial of Architecture of Buenos Aires, Argentina; and the “Decades of Progress” Exhibition Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of American Cyanamid Co., Wayne, NJ-USA, 1987.
Published in: CIV Magazine # 334 by the "Colegio de Ingenieros" (Engineers Association) of Venezuela, Caracas, 1987.
 
Key Collaborators:
Chief Architect: Jorge Rigamonti
Collaborating Architects: Macia Pinto and Jose Ricardo Olivares
Project Management: Marshall & Associates
Structural Engineering: Josef Dragula
Electrical Engineering: Lucas Santamaria
Plumbing Engineering: Sergio Arcetti
Mechanical Engineering: Rafael Salcedo
Fire Prevention Engineering: Fernando Higuera
Landscaping: Macia Pinto and Maria Luisa Acosta
Hydroponic System: Manuel Corao
Chief Draftman: Gustavo Rodriguez
 
Synopsis
 
The overarching goal of the project was to create a major tourism and recreational center of national and international scale, of which the Petroleum Museum was to be the center stage. Envisioned to be located off the east coast of Maracaibo’s Gulf, the museum’s key purpose was to educate its visitors about the past, present and projected future of the Venezuelan oil industry.
 
The urban project included: the square (already present in the area) where the Barroso II oil well marked the beginning of large scale oil extraction in Venezuela with “El Reventón” of 1922; the Petroleum Museum main building (with 55,144 m2 of construction); a hotel complex with a pier; an open-sky amphitheater; and, a 500,000 m2 park with dedicated areas for open exhibitions, fairs, playgrounds, shadehouses, and a coastal walkway.
 
The project seeks to communicate in a succinct way an image of the combined elements from which it drew inspiration from: the Maracaibo Lake with its original “Palafitos” (native indian dwellings made on the water) and its modern days oil rigs; the oil refineries; the Venezuelan land, represented by the “Tepuy Guayanes” (table-top mountains from the Venezuelan Guayana region); and, the tropical vegetation recreated throughout the park and the building itself, which raises environmental consciousness, while symbolizing the aspiration to “sow the petroleum” (“Sembrar el Petróleo”), an expression coined by Arturo Uslar Pietri suggesting the Venezuelan need to invest the economic gains from the oil extraction in other activities that could generate sustainable growth for the country.
 
The Petroleum Museum, the geographical center of the park, “is born” from the water, surrounded by greenery, as a metaphor: a fruit of the same soil, which is transformed into energy useful to man. It has been conceived as a series of autonomous bodies forming a “Horizontal Body” and a “Vertical Body”, functionally, spatially and formally related to produce its volumetric unity. The concept enables using reinforced concrete in the exhibition and service areas, to provide thermal insulation and air conditioning, much needed in the area given its high temperatures. The connecting elements, such as corridors and staircases are lightweight aluminum structures that enable circulation from one body to the other, and are always surrounded by water and/or vegetation. The electrical and mechanical equipment are located in the perimeter of the building, easing general operation and maintenance without disturbing the visitors. The symmetry and pure shapes that generally compose the mechanical elements used in the Oil Industry, strongly relate to the primary shapes used in the museum: circle and square, and their three-dimensional counterparts in the project, cylinder and cube. The coastal walkway “La Rosa” opens the park to the lake and links it with the urban surroundings.
 
The Horizontal Body contains the exhibition “What is it, Where is it, How is it extracted, and How is it transported?” intended for the general visitor, and an information center for specialized audiences. It is composed of six prismatic modules, with reinforced concrete walls, connected with one another through metallic grid corridors organized around a water-mirror patio, from which the underground “Geological Tunnel” emerges into the surface and the oil derrick stands out. Visitors can circulate from the underground level through the “Geological Tunnel” into the circular metallic grid platform suspended above the water pond, and take an unusual and dramatic view at the inclined oil derrick, following a path similar to the oil’s as it is extracted. The water-mirror patio is always present throughout the visitors’ tour as it is visible from the surrounding “Vertical Body”. The services are located peripherally and connected by an alley (for service vehicles) that is hidden from the outside view by the surrounding pyramidal land base. The aforementioned base (covered in grass) gives scale to the building in relation to the large dimensions of the park. A lower floor for the administration, maintenance workshops and warehouses completes the Horizontal Body.
 
The Vertical Body encloses the exhibition “Petroleum, Energy Useful to Man", and is formed by a concrete cylinder containing a spiral exhibition ramp that surrounds the water-mirror patio and creates a Vertical Patio with a “refinery distillation tower” at the center. Inside the tower, an elevator of transparent walls allows the observation of the basic refining process, while transporting visitors to the top. Visitors continue the tour exiting through the Vertical Patio, which is defined by a cube of reflecting glass walls that produce the effect of an infinite refinery (the Distillation Tower is reflected in the surrounding glass cube to the infinitum creating the feeling of being in a Refinery Plant). The exhibition continues through the spiral ramp, where visitors view the “infinite refinery” on the outside and the multiple applications and products derived from Petroleum on the inside. The enclosing cylinder is surrounded by a lightweight tubular tridimensional “mesh” that supports the building’s electro-mechanical equipment, maintenance corridors, and mesh surfaces for vines (climber-plants) that are organized in a checkerboard like pattern facade. A hydroponic system feeds the vines that serve a climate control function (creating a microclimate). At various levels of the cylinder and in the four sides of the perimetrical tubular cube, balconies allow visitors to enjoy the outside view. The descending tour of the spiral ramp ends at the panoramic view-terraces located on the Horizontal Body. From there, visitors can go to the outside displays, the shadehouses, the recreational park, the hotel complex, or the wharf, to take boat rides in the lake.
 
The project was completed (with all engineering details for construction) in 1984; however, with the end of Luis Herrera Campins Venezuela’s Presidency, construction never started.
 
Sinopsis (En Español) - Museo del Petróleo – Complejo urbano
 
La meta programática del proyecto fue la de establecer, en la costa oriental del lago de Maracaibo, un gran centro turístico y recreativo a escala nacional e internacional, donde el Museo del Petróleo pudiera convertirse en el punto focal. El museo buscaba cumplir una función didáctica en relación a lo que fue y es actualmente la  industria  petrolera venezolana, y lo que será en un futuro próximo prometedor.
 
El proyecto urbano comprende: una plaza en conmemoración de “El Reventón” de 1922, ya construida, donde el pozo Barroso II marcó el inicio de la explotación comercial a gran escala del petróleo en Venezuela; el edificio sede del Museo del  Petróleo  (con un área de construcción de 55.144 m2); un complejo hotelero con un malecón; un anfiteatro; y un parque de 500.000 m2, con áreas para exposiciones industriales, ferias, umbráculos, un parque recreacional, y un paseo costero.
 
A partir de aspectos funcionales, espaciales y constructivos, se buscó transmitir una imagen instantánea y sintética de la secuencia compleja de imágenes motivadoras: el Lago de Maracaibo con sus originarios palafitos y sus actuales instalaciones petroleras, las refinerías de petróleo, la tierra venezolana caracterizada por el Tepuy Guayanés, la vegetación tropical recreada en el parque y en la propia edificación, símbolo de nuestra meta "sembrar el petróleo".
 
El museo, centro geográfico del parque, nace en el agua, rodeado de verde, como en una metáfora, fruto de la misma tierra que se transforma en energía útil al hombre. Se ha concebido como una serie de cuerpos autónomos, relacionados funcional, espacial y formalmente produciendo su unidad volumétrica. Este concepto permite resolver en concreto armado, las áreas de exposición y servicio que necesitan aislamiento térmico y aire acondicionado. Los elementos de unión, como corredores y escaleras, son livianos, en aluminio y generan los movimientos de un cuerpo a otro, están siempre rodeados de agua  y/o vegetación. Los equipamientos técnicos se ubicaron, siempre perimetralmente a la edificación, tanto en el cuerpo horizontal como en el vertical, y también en todo el nivel inferior, facilitando la operatividad general y las operaciones de mantenimiento, sin entorpecer los movimientos del público. Los elementos mecánicos utilizados por la industria petrolera son generalmente simétricos y de formas puras. En el museo la simetría permite relacionar enfáticamente las formas primarias utilizadas: círculo y cuadrado, cilindro y cubo. El paseo costero "La Rosa" da presencia al lago y relaciona lo urbano con el parque y el museo.
 
El  cuerpo   horizontal contiene las exposiciones: "¿Qué es, en dónde está, Cómo se extrae, y Cómo se transporta el petróleo?", exposición prevista para el público general, y un centro didáctico y de informática para el público especializado. Está formado por seis módulos prismáticos construidos con paredes de concreto armado, comunicados entre sí por corredores de rejillas metálicas organizados alrededor de un patio-espejo de agua, del cual brota el “Túnel Geológico” y se apoya la cabria petrolera. Este patio siempre está presente en el recorrido del público. Los servicios están ubicados periféricamente y conectados por una calle de servicio, escondida por los grandes taludes de tierra y grama que además le dan escala al edificio en relación a la gran dimensión del parque. Un piso inferior para la administración, los talleres de mantenimiento, y depósitos, completan el cuerpo horizontal.
 
El cuerpo vertical contiene la exposición: "El Petróleo, Energía Útil al Hombre". Está formado por un cilindro que contiene una rampa de exhibición en espiral que rodea un patio vertical que contiene la torre de fraccionamiento. Esta última se recorre verticalmente, por medio de un elevador de paredes transparentes que permite observar el proceso básico de refinación, al llegar a la parte superior, se sale en medio del patio vertical, definido por paredes de vidrio reflejante que producen el efecto de una refinería infinita. De allí se pasa a la exposición en la rampa espiral, donde se observa, la refinería infinita en el exterior y las múltiples aplicaciones y productos del petróleo, en el interior. Este cilindro elevado en concreto, está rodeado por una malla tubular tridimensional que soporta los servicios, los corredores de mantenimiento, y planos de hiedra organizados en forma de damero en las fachadas. Un sistema hidropónico alimenta dicha hiedra que cumple una función climática (reduciendo la temperatura interna). Una cafetería con terrazas y miradores panorámicos, completan el cuerpo vertical. El recorrido del público, bajando por la rampa en espiral, termina en las terrazas mirador ubicadas sobre el cuerpo horizontal.  Desde allí el público puede ir, cruzando el espejo de agua, a las exposiciones exteriores, los umbráculos, el vivero exposición, el parque recreacional, el complejo hotelero, el  malecón y  tomar  los  paseos  en  lancha,  por el lago.
 
El proyecto (con todos los detalles de ingeniería para la construcción) se completó en 1984, sin embargo, terminada la presidencia de Venezuela de Luis Herrera Campins, la construcción nunca inició.
Petroleum Museum Architectural Model - View of the Main Entrance
Petroleum Museum Architectural Model - Night View from La Rosa Ave. with Reflection on the Water Pond 
Petroleum Museum Architectural Model - Top View
Petroleum Museum Architectural Model - Top View of the Museum; the open-sky amphitheater; the park with dedicated areas for open exhibitions, fairs, playgrounds, shadehouses, and a coastal walkway; and, the hotel complex with the pier on Maracaibo's Lake.
Petroleum Museum Façade Drawing, showing the cubic lightweight tubular tridimensional “mesh” with vines (climber-plants) organized in a checkerboard-like pattern.
Petroleum Museum Drawing - Axonometrical Cross Section of the Horizontal Body showing the “Geological Tunnel” exit into the central platform and the inclined oil derrick
Petroleum Museum Drawing - Axonometrical Cross Section of the Vertical Body showing the "refinery distillation tower" located at the center of the “Vertical Patio” defined by a cube of reflecting glass, the cylindrical building with the spiral ramp, and the all enclosing cubic lightweight tubular tridimensional “mesh”
Petroleum Museum Drawing - Vertical Cross Section of the Horizontal and the Vertical Bodies showing the “Geological Tunnel” , the inclined oil derrick and the central "refinery distillation tower" with its inner elevator
Mircea Eliade “The Tree of Life” Schema vs. The Petroleum Museum Architectural Model
A Sought Coincidence…
After the project was completed, it was discovered that the spatial schema of the building, curiously enough, closely resembles the diagram of “The Tree of Life” produced by Mircea Eliade and resulting from his investigation of various ancient cultures beliefs. Eliade’s diagram combines the external sphere (symbolizing the heaven), the cube (symbolizing the Earth), the truncated cone (symbolizing the Cosmic Mountain), and the spiral (representing the initiatory path) at the center. Similarly, the museum combines the external circular water pond, the squared island, the central cylinder, and the spiral ramp. This coincidental resemblance adds to the symbolism of the project.
 
Una casualidad buscada…
Luego de haber completado el proyecto, se descubrió que el esquema espacial del Museo del Petróleo guarda una curiosa relación directa con el diagrama del "Árbol de la Vida" diseñado por Mircea Eliade, y que resulta de sus investigaciones de antiguas culturas míticas. El diagrama de Eliade combina la esfera externa (que simboliza el cielo), el cubo (que simboliza la Tierra), el cono truncado (que simboliza la Montaña Cósmica), y la espiral (que representa la ruta iniciática) en el centro. De modo similar, el museo combina el espejo de agua externo circular, la isla con base cuadrada, el cilindro central y la rampa en espiral. Esta semejanza casual suma al simbolismo del proyecto en su conjunto.
Aerial View of The Petroleum Museum's location off the east coast of Maracaibo’s Gulf
(Parroquia La Rosa - Cabimas)
Petroleum Museum of Venezuela
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Petroleum Museum of Venezuela

1984 - Petroleum Museum - Urban Complex Cabimas, Zulia State, Venezuela Floor Area: 55,144 m2 - Site Area: 500,000 m2
30
1,368
0
Published:

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