New excavations are currently taking place in the Thermenmuseum in Heerlen, which covers an excavation of a Roman baths complex. News media report that these new investigations could reveal that Heerlen is the oldest city in the Netherlands. The motivations for the new excavations are quite different. In the last 40 years the state of the excavation, which was covered in the 1970s, has deteriorated under the influence of (direct) sunlight, dry air and the accumulation of dust. The new investigation first of all aims to list the damages and repair parts of the excavation. Subsequently, all previous findings are gathered and compared to complete the first full archaeological inquiry into the roman bath complex (concerning its age, construction and usage), which was never fully documented before.
The museum building was designed by the firm of the architect Frits Peutz, just after he passed away in 1974. Peutz also made the first reconstruction drawings of the complex in 1948. Next to the damages because of dust and climate conditions, the curators of the museum find the current building inadequate in terms of its presentation of the excavation. A straight forward footbridge limits the visitor’s experience of the ruin. In time, the museum will move to a new building across the street, the current building demolished and the excavation will obtain a new shelter.
From these conditions, the studio assignment has been developed. Students are asked to design a new shelter for the excavation, which improves both the conservation and presentation of the remains. The shelter can be connected to a small programme, but is limited to the surface of the excavation and a small margin around it.