Ralph Applebaum Associates

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Troy, British Museum

London, England

Hosted in the British Museum’s Special Exhibitions Gallery, “Troy: Myth and Reality” is the UK’s first large-scale exhibition on Trojan history in 150 years. The exhibition explores this epic narrative and asks: why has this story endured for 3,000 years?

RAA’s design for “Troy: Myth and Reality” aimed to capture the legend of Troy and translate it into an emotional, immersive experience with relevance for contemporary audiences. We took advantage of the scale of the Special Exhibitions Gallery: a floor-to-ceiling Troy sign greets visitors in the foyer; lopsided walls in the introductory section loom over the visitor as if they have just fallen; a large-scale photo of the archaeological excavation hangs over an abstract, circular dig; and an epic, six-meter high mural depicting key moments in the story provides a dynamic backdrop. The experience culminates in a colossal, floating Trojan Horse.

Two parallel stories wrap around the central spine of the Gallery: The Myth tells the classical story of the Trojan War. It is juxtaposed with Enduring Stories, which re-interprets Troy’s characters and themes through the eyes of artists, poets, and writers. At key moments, apertures through the central spine provide views from The Myth to Enduring Stories, revealing for visitors the themes, characters, and ideas that echo across time. In the far reaches of the gallery, a circular space evocative of a 19th-century dig explores the archaeological work undertaken to prove Troy’s existence.

Unusual juxtapositions of objects from across time encourage reflection on the continued relevance of Troy’s universal themes: the desolation of war, the search for a home, the role of women, and what it means to be a hero.

A reviewer for The Art Newspaper wrote: “What the exhibition does brilliantly is to explore, subtly, why these have become the greatest stories ever told… This exhibition deserves not just one but multiple visits.”

Size 11,840 square feet

Year 2019