3 July 2013

MArchD students involved with Palestine regeneration project

MArchD students working alongside locals in Birzeit, Palestine

MArchD Applied Design in Architecture ARB/RIBA PART 2 students are getting hands-on experience in Riwaq's 50 Villages project in Palestine, where they will help bring life back to historic centres, support urban regeneration and work alongside local communities to help introduce inventive and affordable eco-friendly ideals to address a shortage of resources.

Riwaq, the Centre of Architectural Conservation in Ramallah, is a non-governmental organisation in Palestine, with whom MArchD lecturers Nasser Golzari and Yara Sharif have worked with over the past few years.

The students' work is based primarily in the village of Beit Iksa, Palestine, one of 50 villages selected for protection for its architectural and geographic significance in Palestinian Territories. Here, the students are contributing to a project, working alongside local communities and the Municipality to design, make, and build devices and spaces within the village. The aim is to bring life back to the village and offer responsive design proposals that address kinetic electricity water filtration techniques, locally sources alternative building materials as well as skills and employment. The project is now in its second phase and has just developed its first 'green' roof and water filtration device using 100% locally recycled materials.

The urban scale project is on-going and part of a larger scheme lead by Riwaq, which will be implemented in the coming months. The students' second project for the coming academic year will be a contribution to specific site intervention for the 2014 Riwaq International Biennale. The Biennale is an event aiming to create a space for an on-the-ground display of Riwaq’s approach and philosophy, which is to protect, utilize and promote cultural heritage in Palestine through tangible and intangible projects of rehabilitation and revitalization.

Nasser and Yara previously worked on co-ordinating the UK Think Net team, formed to take part in the Riwaq Biennale event. Through this, they developed the Birzeit project to contribute their thoughts towards the urban strategies of bringing life back to the town's historic centre, in particular looking at developing urban concepts related to stitching the urban pockets. The regeneration project has been short listed for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Nasser and Yara also founded the Palestine Regeneration Team (PART) with Professor Murray Fraser of the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London.

To support the regeneration scheme the lecturers have also liaised with Riwaq, Unesco and Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, to develop an international design competition for some key elements within the historic centre. This competition included students from Palestinian Universities along with students from Central St Martins, and the judging panel included Angela Brady, current president of RIBA, and Riwaq's founder Suad Amiry.

The Kite That Caught a Mountain, an animation by the MArchD students involved in the 50 Villages Project, was shown at the 2013 London Palestine Film Festival.

School of Architecture

Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment