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Project: Cultural centre

Location: Bamiyan, Afghanistan

Date: 2015

Client: UNESCO

Architect: SPANS associates

Type: Cultural centre, Exhibition, Performance, Workshops, Research centre

Size: 1900 sqm

Stage: Competition



The Bamiyan Cultural Centre proposed design is a landscaped project. Its respect its ground, the mountain presence and integrates the cityscape.
It is a place for contemplation and an invitation to inspire and share.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” (Bryant H. McGill)

The project is about respect to the history, the topography inhabited by the local communities.
The integration has been approached through a non-monumental architectural form, a relative fragmented low rise set of buildings following the ground overall levels,
and sand coloured aspect.

A timeless responseand non- formal response in symbiosis with the GENIUS LOCI

The Bamiyan Cultural Centre proposed design aims at being a timeless project, as a place for the community without being a landmark conflicting with the quietness of the site and its iconic natural mountains façade forming the background. The non formal approach intends at celebrating the site, the heritage and being in symbiosis with its energy.
The primary plan key lines are derived from the soil fragments and cracks and articulated as a set of different programmes set out in the levels and topography of the site.
In response to the Afghan architecture, the different buildings are defining intermediate spaces, courtyards, connections creating some outdoor and indoor spaces.
The plan can be read as a succession of public spaces and more private areas are all articulated on the landscape.
Furthermore, the project makes reference in the carved and cave architecture which is a primary feature of the architecture of the Bamiyan.
Some of the local caves are natural, but most of them are the result of human construction.
This type of construction invites a meditative practice and an inner seclusive way of living part of the Buddhist architecture.

Local connection to the earth, the culture and the constructive know how

“The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.”

The project intends to integrate an environmentally conscious design approach. Primarily, in the Bamiyan context, it does consider locally resourced materials.
The intent is to avoid importing any material and avoid any artificial cosmetic effects which would require non local skills and externally sourced raw material.
In respect to traditions and local skills, the proposal bases all the construction on module built locally, formed with earth/mud forming cylindrical bricks as a basic module.
The variation of colour would come from the local earth source would participate to an integrated construction.
The aim is to source local material and to invite local participation in the construction process in respect with local know how.
The internal parts would form a vault, carved space. The relatively thick wall created by the modular brick would have sufficient acoustic and thermal mass to respond to the
programme and the various spaces quality. The light would be brought punctually through the thickness of the deep walls/vault.

A low tech approach and a deep environmental conscious

“We cannot command nature except by obeying her “ (Sir Francis Bacon)

The understanding to the local’s climatic context is the most important strategy in contemporary architecture. The Bamiyan Cultural Centre proposed design is aiming that the minimum energy is involved to create the project and to maintain it as part of a cultural responsibility. As per the given information, the Bamiyan site is located at 2,500 m; the climate is dry with little rainfall. The yearly average temperature is 8 deg C. The maximum summer temperature is 30 deg C and the minimum winter temperature is 20 deg C.
As stated in the programme, heating systems are necessary, but air conditioning is not. The atmospheric transmittance of solar radiation is high, with especially strong sunshine
during the summer. The relative thick masonry is providing a sufficient thermal mass to maintain comfort and thermal equilibrium.
The buildings and landscape layout will respect the topography and will be organised in terrace with reinforcement of the slope if necessary in order to maintain ground stability and avoid any landslides. The project aims at collecting rainwater with water tanks even if it is a little source of water supply and following the master plan layout, and will aim at sourcing and investigating well water.

Patrimonialheritage development, new space for reconciliation, multi programmes

The Bamiyan Cultural Centre will be a space for exhibitions and training, research and education, bringing together the remarkable history of Afghanistan and its contribution as
a crossroads of different civilizations. The involvement of local communities will stimulate interaction between people and will participate of the conservation of the local gifts and unique cultural heritage. After the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, the site counts amongst the UNESCO heritage, further conservation work has been carried out.
In the continuity the Bamiyan Cultural Centre is an architecture of integration but also reconciliation.
The spaces are articulated to stimulate creativity, multi culturalism, performance, openness, and provide a unique place of contemplation of the past heritage and carries a responsibility in the new history the community and visitors will write.