Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2019
In 2019, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture was awarded to the new Palestinian Museum in the village of Bir Zeit on the West Bank not far from Ramallah. The prize is awarded every 3 years and honors not only the design achievement but also the positive effect of a building on the cultural and social needs of the people in the area.
The architecture came from the Irish firm Heneghan Peng Architects. It received prize money in the amount of US-$ 16,000. The client was the NGO Taawon-Welfare Association, which supports people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and refugees in camps in Lebanon.
The museum aims to promote the Palestinian heritage and “foster a culture of dialogue and tolerance,” as the Aga Khan Development Network writes on its website.
The architects were inspired by this approach, especially by the local cultural landscape. “Every element of it has been touched and tells a story of intervention, production, culture, environment, and commerce“, the architects write and go on to say: it “has the ‘worked’ quality of a city“.
Especially the terraces all along the slopes have impressed the architects. For generations, people have piled up the stones to form dry stone cowering places and used the resulting land for agriculture.
The museum itself is located on a hill with a magnificent view. On the slopes, the Jordanian landscape architect Lara Zureikat had these terraces rebuilt or restored according to the ancient models. Reading the list of what is now being planted there, you can hear the enthusiasm of the planners. „Groves of olives, pomegranate, fig, apricot, almond, carob, and walnut are already yielding fruit and nuts, below them a thick, aromatic carpet of wheat, chickpea, mint, za’atar, sage, chamomile, jasmine, and lavender bloom.”
In fact, the Levant, another name for the region in ancient times, was a veritable Garden of Eden when the climate there was not as dry as it is today. Recently, researchers have discovered that much earlier than 100,000 years ago, when the first humans set out from Africa to Eurasia, the fertile land served as a catapult to the north.
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