Founded in 1993, the AM Qattan Foundation is a registered charity in the UK which operates out of premises in London, Ramallah and Gaza. It works towards the development of culture and education, with a particular focus on children, teachers and young artists. For more information on the AMQF including its vision and values, click here.
Having outgrown its existing accommodation in Ramallah, the AMQF is planning to construct new premises in the Tireh area of Ramallah. It is running an international architectural competition for the design of what will be a major new cultural center and office building.
The competition is an opportunity to champion excellence in design, reflecting the quality of the AMQF’s work in the culture and education fields for over 15 years. As well as responding to the AMQF’s functional needs, the new building is expected to set a standard for the architecture of subsequent public buildings in Palestine.
The AMQF hopes that the competition and execution process will raise awareness about the role of the built fabric design in improving the quality of urban life in social, cultural and economic terms.
Looks as you are, be as you look
1. Reorganize the existing
Visitors to the new building will feel immersed into the original un-exploited land, upon historical, agricultural terraces. By retaining the stone walls that once divided and organized the sites physical cultivation, order becomes shifted, evolved into its second opportunity without dramatic changes.
The ground unites us to the land, anchored with both memory and tradition. By avoiding subterranean development we empower the feeling of direct contact with the surface, the land. Education is taking roots. What better method than to reintroduce the concept of learning through its origin? Combine the territory as experience with knowledge as awareness. In this way the “Foundation” will connect to the other meaning of the word, the meeting point between structure and ground.
2. Organic construction
We don’t anticipate just another building. Ramallah Al-Tireh and Palestine need new architecture representing new conscience. There are too many blocks, excessive construction, mistakes not to be repeated with an over dominant building. We are gifted by the opportunity of creating something different to current architectural offerings. Let’s look to the past, our origins, where cultures created meeting spaces, spaces that even grew. We propose creating a system, a repetitive construction process that unites itself to the land, flexible and non-static. This is our proposal, create the whole from the part, let time and dialogue create the final form of the Foundation. We expect to build a non-building, the quiet expression of requirements.
3. Simplicity and economy
There are two reasons for this stance: on one hand, an ethical depiction showing citizens an austere building, while adhering to requirements. On the other hand, we desire careful consideration of the end users, regarding the cost of construction. We prefer, if possible, a high value low budget. We consider it’s more important that these savings be used to buy new teaching materials, or exhibition equipment. For this reason, there aren’t basements, neither roofed parking or different floors. The stance is to manage the space, roof and inhabit the land. Based on the repetition of some components, we suggest an on-site, prefabricated, reinforced concrete building. Small pieces, pillars, beams and louvers, will be easily assembled. Therefore, construction time would be dramatically shortened, thus costs would be reduced significantly. The visitor will easily understand how it was built, gimmick free architecture.
4. Light and shade
How do we define our culture? And we say “our”: Spain is deeply linked to Palestinian culture and the Mediterranean Sea. Because of climate, landscape and tradition, our most beautiful buildings are based on the connection with sun and nature. The Alhambra in Granada, the Mosque in Córdoba, Medinat al-Zahra, are great examples created from an active relationship between inside and outside. Many popular constructions have sought the same experience. Pergolas and sun blinds spread across Palestinian cities, creating courtyards and terraces. Perhaps the best rooms, with vegetation growing above and around.
In our design light is filtered, led and focused to prevent dazzle, but also to create fresh rooms, protected from direct sunlight. The cover will reach over the site, creating both indoor and outdoor spaces. It will be a vast canopy, creating a new garden of shade and diffused natural light underneath.
The new education centre must depict Palestinian desire of continued freedom. And this attitude must be reflected within the design. We would like to say to the world: you choose! The foundation will be free to modify during design, during construction, even in the future. As experience would say: freedom, freedom, freedom! There won’t be limits, only systems. The louvers frame is the basis of the building’s potential enlargement and flexibility. Small, manageable concrete slabs will be placed upon specific louvers, distinguishing roofed and non-roofed spaces. This also will suggest how many skylights will be necessary and how many louvers will let the building breath. Time is the best teacher, this construction method permits the future readjustment of space.
6. Returning the landscape
Buildings that snatch from nature are short lived: to be a model citizen, we must take into consideration not only our actions, but also their consequences. Newly built situations must collect memory, nature, image, and presence. How beautiful this olive grove, with terraces and walls! How can we integrate landscape, topography and nature into the built environment? We propose a native species green roof, as a vast patchwork of sloping planes, merged together with staggered terraces and horizontal lines. There will be a collage of solar panels (heating systems) placed parallel to skylights, green roof and non-roofed louvers. It will best be described as a chameleon, an un-named building, a re-organized landscape.
7. In a garden
Between the pergola and the ground, a shady, translucent space filled with light that descends upon us. We arrive into “other space”. Encouraged by re-plantation of vegetation and trees, the perimeter and courtyards embrace this notion. We have created a place of work, a place of study, a place to simply “be”. How can we learn without rest-bite? Machines are integral, functional, but not visual in this design. We can see how this building works and thus services are not hidden from the mind, only sight. Views are not obstructed, distracted, obscured by mechanical intervention to this landscape. We intend a comfortable, sustainable solution for both the winter months and the summer. Heating and cooling systems are situated underneath the floor and the entry ramp will house the designed systems. A suspended cable-car that reaches the different levels makes the building more accessible, more fluid.
8. Without hidden spaces
Notable for its historic suffering and consequent distrust, Palestine requires compensation. A deep breath, a new beginning! Not only figurative suggestions but a physical encounter: the new institution gives the whole image, the whole building in a single glance. It’s programme is divided into three areas: open use rooms close to the entrance (gallery, library, café and multi-purpose hall), academic training rooms in the east (classrooms and workshop) and administration rooms, sited furthest from the entrance and with an exclusive access at the bottom. Partitions will continue this osmosis theme. Glass walls and screens will adjust the space according to the necessary requirements, offering the option of interactive spaces, semi-secluded spaces and separated spaces.