The proposal will investigate and counter the effects of military occupation and segregation on the Old City of Hebron. PLUG-In Hebron has been designed to transform the influence that the occupation has on the conservation, rehabilitation, current use and perception of the existing built environment in the Old City.
In cooperation with our local partners, PLUG-In Hebron seeks to actively demilitarise current military space through civilian action, in a collaborative process which matches architecture with advocacy to reengage the Old City.
The project takes place in a traditional building now abandoned in the militarised Old City of Hebron.
The proposal will address many of the issues affecting civilian life under the military occupation, such as:
/////////////// Lack of security
/////////////// Desertion of civilian spaces
/////////////// Community isolation
/////////////// Environmental degradation
The project will do so by creating through this building – a centre for public life, research activities, discourses and workshops on the future of the occupied Old City.
This will be the first of a series of hubs, beginning at points of intense interaction between military intervention and civilian life in the Old City. From these points, the hubs will catalyse site specific change and incrementally over time reclaim space for the civilian.
Architecture will become a vehicle of conflict transformation in order to protect human rights, and counter the economic and social decline of the occupied Old City.
The creation of a Ghost Town.
/////////////// WHERE: Old City of Hebron
The Old City of Hebron has been the site of frequent acts of reciprocal violence in the context of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict from the 1929 pogrom of Jewish residents to the 1994 Goldstein massacre of Muslim worshippers in the Ibrahmi Mosque. The Old City’s current urban morphology is heavily influenced by the fallout from this latter event; following which and under the pretence of security concerns, the city was divided under the Hebron Protocol into two sectors- H1 and H2. Palestinian Authority control of Hebron is restricted to H1, which contains around 120,000 Palestinians, whilst H2 which contains the Old City, had Israeli military jurisdiction imposed on it. Hebron is a unique city in the West Bank as it is the only one with an Israeli settlement in its centre where more than 500 settlers and 1,500+ Israeli Defence soldiers (IDF) live among 30,000 Palestinians.
/////////////// THE ISSUES.
Due to security restrictions imposed by the IDF, the architecture and urbanism of the Old City has evolved in an exceptionally volatile context and manner. This has had a decidedly negative effect on the natural environment, vernacular architecture, and the sustainable planning of the built environment; which according to Palestinian Architect Omar Yousef has created an urbanity of ‘forced ecology’. This ‘ecology’ is a reaction to necessities of life under the occupation and is characterised by an architecture of chaos, crowdedness, instability, temporariness, destruction and improvised building. Due to these military restrictions on the freedom of movement and use of space, the Old City has suffered an economic and social death over the last 20 years, which has been described as a ‘ghost town’ by many human rights organisations.
However, amongst these difficult conditions, the resilience and desire to live normal lives as expressed by Old City Hebronites has been remarkable. Their actions known as ‘Sumud’ (non-violent resistance) in Arabic are a source of inspiration to those who espouse a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
/////////////// WHY: Architecture and Human Rights Combined – A New Urban Ecology
The Old City is seen as an example of how architecture can be used as a vehicle to protect and literally build resilience within communities through which their social and human rights may be protected. Over 20 years our partner organisation within Hebron has under often difficult circumstances worked to rehabilitate the physical and social fabric of the Old City. Within this context the realms of architecture and Sumud have evolved and strengthened. However, to date much of the rehabilitation work has involved residential and sacred spaces. This has paradoxically contributed to a unique phenomenon experienced in the Old City of the internalisation of civic space within the realms of the home and the mosque due to the threat of settler violence or military harassment. Plug-In Hebron aims to invert this phenomenon in order to assist Hebronites in reclaiming their civic spaces.
As such, PLUG-In believes that extreme urban environments in conflict areas such as the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel have the potential to inform on the crucial need to link social and political dimensions to built environment concerns in order to foresee other cities’ transformations.
1. COMMUNITY IMPACT.
Planting a seed.
The design proposal is an evolving process beginning with creation of a community ‘plug-in’. This is our seed and it is housed within a traditional Mamluk era (early 1800s) building in the Old City donated by our local partner. From this starting point PLUG-In Hebron aims to empower a civic-led demilitarisation and reclamation of space. It is intended that the building and surrounding public space will act as an exemplar of how to creatively and sensitively upgrade military space to civilian space in the Old City. The project consists of an architecture whose aesthetic, planning and intention matches our empowerment agenda; as such the building is designed to have a ‘strata’ of distinctive but complementary agendas through its three floors.
/////////////// The GROUND FLOOR is seen as part of the city space, where we propose an inversion of the internal rooms of the building onto the street. this Open-Space will be a public catalyst for civic activities such as traditional cooking programmes, children’s arts workshops, a recycle lab, exhibition space, waste management workshops and poetry events.
/////////////// The MIDDLE FLOOR hosts the Lab, home to an academic research centre on the architecture of the occupation and the protection of human rights through architecture. This part of the building will accommodate student interns and researchers from the West Bank and abroad. It contains, co-working spaces, architecture workshop, offices, meeting rooms, presentation spaces and living spaces for visitors. As such it is perfectly situated to learn and contribute to the activities of the open ground floor and;
/////////////// the ROOF LEVEL which is home to the Hub. This space operates as an amphitheatre embracing the Old City with spectacular views; it consists of an event space and open forum for dialogue on the future of Hebron.
The Hub is designed as a new volume which expresses the values of the project. It is constructed of a light wooden structure and is covered with layers of the traditional Hebronite fabric, onto which a distinctive pattern has been applied. This pattern identifies the project as part of the PLUG Initiative.
Colourful, soft and familiar, the volume has been designed to engage people from the surrounding areas, whilst offering secure, private and screened space within which to participate in the project. Its light modular structure can be easily reproduced elsewhere for other activities (domestic, recreational use etc.) and will complement the hard fabric of the Old City without damaging its precious vernacular architecture. This is of particular importance as it is the intention of local authorities to have the Old City inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Taken together, the three floors housing civic, academic and discourse agendas are envisaged as ‘an engine’ to power active and open community design processes that engages people, raises awareness and contributes to the transformation of military space to civilian space.
2. ECONOMIC VIABILITY
/////////////// SECURING THE BUILDING
The building, donated by our local partner requires minor conservation and structural work. Our partner has kindly agreed to repair the historic fabric and connect utilities such as water, electricity, heating and internet. Due to subsidies to encourage the rehabilitation of the Old City, properties there are exempt from paying for these services.
/////////////// INHABITING THE BUILDING
These initial works will leave us with a serviced shell, which will require a fit out on the ground and first floor, and the construction of a linking staircase and the lightweight structure on the roof. To date, local NGOs, the UN, a number of educational establishments and local government agencies have expressed interest in supporting this venture. With the backing of Architecture for Humanity, we feel that this is an opportune moment to develop this proposal to a detailed level in order to tap these resources. It is intended that the actual architecture of the building reflects the social agenda of the proposed functions; as such the construction will involve local artisans and builders and will be a showcase of local Hebronite trade and crafts.
/////////////// RUNNING THE BUILDING
At present we are developing a 3 year cost plan specifically relating to the programme and running costs of the proposal. In terms of covering the construction, running and maintenance of the proposal, we intend to:
/////////////// Fundraise extensively through parties which we have already networked and are confident that support will be granted if a detailed project and programme is created.
/////////////// Crowd-fund the proposal.
/////////////// Capitalise on the substantial pledges of voluntary contributions (pro-bono services, labour)
/////////////// Generate, where possible a limited amount of income*. *There are certain activities within the building which we may charge for such as lodgings, food, events, study space etc. However we are determined to be a catalyst and not a competitor with local businesses. As such there will be strict guidelines on charging so as any income generation does not have a negative effect on the existing local economy.
/////////////// Secure long term core funding through local bodies, international agencies and educational institutions.
3. ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT
An Exemplar Building. The project architecture will broadcast the ethos of the proposal.
We intend that the building will be an exemplar of how to innovatively and sensitively upgrade threatened vernacular architecture, by reusing existing building stock we can immediately reduce our ecological footprint. This is an often avoided option in our project context and other rapidly urbanising places.
The project will use local, natural materials to reduce embodied energy. For example, the cyprus wood for the Hub and stair core structure will be sourced from the Wadi Al-Quf Forest Nursery, thus securing its future existence. The building will be restored with the traditional techniques, with the use of the local stone and lime. The fabric….
/////////////// Local Trades and craftsmen
The building will act as a showcase for local trades and artisans, exhibiting their work through the structure, fabric, furniture, glasswork and installations.
/////////////// Urban Agriculture
There will be a significant emphasis on environmental (natural) and food advocacy issues within the architecture and the programme of the project. A local specialized NGO has committed to advising on the most effective integration of this agenda into the project and also to lead programmers within it.
/////////////// Energy Production and Reduction
In order to reduce the need for mains utilities for both ecological and financial concerns we aim to integrate photovoltaic for electricity, thermal solar pipes for hot water and rainwater harvesting for grey water and irrigation purposes. The project will not change the traditional plan of the building which will utilise the presence of a courtyard, half roofed half open-air. This space will be used as a thermo-regulation device, as a ventilated space in the summer and as a filter space in the winter. We propose the installation of a simple open-able roof/deck which can transform the courtyard into an internal space if needed
/////////////// Waste Management
The activities in the building will involve the teaching of recycling and waste management techniques, in order to secure the future of the local ecosystem. Waste issues are of a particular importance in Old City where the management and perception of waste is disrupted by military restrictions. For example, traditionally it is the responsibility of the youngest boy to empty trash at the designated locations, these are frequently monitored by the IDF, who under the presence of security, insist that the child must empty the contents onto the street before they reach the collection point. The child often frightened will either drop the rubbish before the security check or in a panic fail to pick everything up again. Tasks like these have affected perceptions of waste and ecological concerns in the Old City, PLUG – In Hebron through our facilities will aim to run workshops and evolve effective strategies to deal with waste management, reuse and collection.
/////////////// Awareness of Ecological Impact of Conflict
The project is aware of the critical need for sustainable environmental solutions when it comes to activities within protracted conflict areas. PLUG-In Hebron is designed to minimize the negative impact of conflict on the environment through adjusting to the local climate and situation and evolving environmentally led initiative to support civil activities. The goal is to create a platform where organizations, research groups, universities and companies can meet to present research results, demonstrate to the community more environmentally-friendly alternative products and exchange experiences.
4. CONTEXTUAL APPROPRIATENESS
The proposal, prepared in conjunction with our local partners has been designed to respond to widespread phenomena of social and spatial disintegration as a result of the architecture and policies of the occupation in Hebron and Palestine.
At a wider level, the proposal is relevant to global concerns as it represents the crux of many issues relevant to a better understanding of political, social and environmental sustainability of cities in protracted and post conflict scenarios. These issues include the re-appropriation of buildings, memory and history, contested housing and land rights, deterioration of livelihoods and traditional crafts, ethnic / religious conflict, modern urbanization, and access to resources such as water.
The proposal situated in an urbanism as extreme as that of the Old City will benefit our common understanding of the environmental, social and political (violent) dimensions of the production of urban space.
5. EXPECTED OUTCOMES.
PARTICIPATION. CHANGE. RE-ENVISIONING. CHALLENGING. TRANSITION. RECLAMATION. INSPIRE.
The expected outcomes of the project are primarily linked to the local society. Greater local stakeholder participation will be a key result of the proposal; and as the project grows it is hoped that more interests will be aroused, spreading to more areas of the city.
Secondly, PLUG-In Hebron will catalyze positive social and environmental changes and open the way for new opportunities towards the re-envisioning of a neglected space.
Thirdly, and through the initiatives expressed in this document, PLUG In – Hebron will challenge the effects of conflict and offer a platform for the transition of military space to civic space.
Finally, opening the way to a successful transition to a civic city, PLUG-In Hebron is designed to inspire other communities and authorities with his vision of freedom and social empowerment.