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ECOBuilder-Specifiers Journal spring2018

The Temple of Mithras

The Temple of Mithras restoration, London Foster+Partners and Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) Moving down another flight of stairs the visitors enter an area without any further written information but find themselves in a smoke-filled environment. This smoke then slowly dissipates to reveal the ruins of the temple itself. Beneath Bloomberg’s new European headquarters in London a subterranean Roman temple where a mysterious cult worshipped has been restored within an immersive museum by the exhibition designers, Local Projects, who were responsible for the 9/11 memorial museum. Part of Bloomberg’s £1 billion plan was to restore the Temple of Mithras to its original location seven metres below modern street level. The reconstructed temple sits in a dark room with a viewing gallery running around the sides and a platform suspended over the nave. Visitors enter the timed experience, which uses haze, light projections and baffles to create the illusion of the temple walls and columns rising from the ruins. An illuminated scene of Mithras slaying a bull flickers to life in the apse, while a soundscape of chanting, bells and horns adds to the multi-sensory experience. Visitors to the London Mithraeum enter through the Bloomberg SPACE, a new art gallery on Walbrook Street with a rotating display of contemporary art. Displayed here within a vitrine are 600 of the artefacts discovered in the 2010- 14 archaeological dig undertaken ahead of the construction of the Bloomberg building. The wet soil of the Walbrock valley means the 14,000 24 SPECIFIERS JOURNAL - SPRING 2018 objects unearthed were unusually well preserved. One particularly interesting find was the earliest dated writing tablet from London. Written on 8 January AD 57, it is a financial record of money owed, dating from when London was only 7 years old and 1,960 years before a global financial markets company built their base on the site. From here, visitors descend to a dimly lit mezzanine level, with scenes of Roman statues projected against the walls and interactive screens containing all the information gleaned about the temple by the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA). Little is known about the Cult of Mithras as it was so secretive at the time. It’s all-male membership was drawn from soldiers, merchants and freeman who travelled widely through the Roman Empire. It is believed members gathered in windowless temples to drink and perform rituals and animal sacrifices naked in the dark, illuminated by torchlight. The mythology of Mithras involves the young deity killing a primordial bull in a cave, and every temple dedicated to him would have prominently displayed a bas relief called a tauroctony depicting this moment. Academics have hypothesised this was a form of creation myth that drew on theories of the cosmos. Bombing during the Blitz of WW2 destroyed most of the buildings on the site, and after the war in 1954 excavations of the rubble revealed the 1,800-year-old temple. In 1962 the London temple remains were

emoved wholesale and reassembled nearby and were completed with anachronistic elements including a crazy paving floor. In an effort to be as accurate as possible to the era, the Bloombergfunded return of the temple to its original site planned to be more faithful than early attempts. Even the trampled Roman-era earthen floor of the restored ruin is a hand-painted resin cast reconstruction. Above the museum rises Foster + Partner’s sandstone and bronze Bloomberg European headquarters, a structure that has been called the world’s most sustainable office building. Project Credits: Architect: Foster+Partners Client: Bloomberg LP and Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) Consulting Curator: Nancy Rosen Incorporated Artist Consultant: Matthew Schreiber Exhibition Architect: Studio Joseph SPECIFIERS JOURNAL - SPRING 2018 25

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