Clients: UNESCO, Ministry of Information and Culture of Afghanistan
Status: Competition (2015)
Location: Bamyan, Afghanistan
Coordinates: 34.822108, 67.825320
Climate: Desert / arid, Hot
Environments: Desert, Urban
Types: Cultural, Museum
The Bamiyan Cultural Centre is conceived as an extension of the territory. The monolithic form of the building is a direct result of an abstract geometrization of the site topography. The building is established at the lower elevation of the site (+2545,00 m) creating on top a panoramic viewpoint. The intent is to enhance and emphasize the impressive range of views that characterizes so strongly the site, avoiding the building as a barrier to the landscape that surrounds it. The cover platform assumes the same level of the higher elevation (+2555,50 m) while the terrain sheds naturally along the West wall, uncovering at the North elevation, the total height of the volume. The cover declares its artificiality through a geometric drawing that is inspired by the potatoes fields. Along the border, these areas are filled with rain water reflecting the landscape and used as water basins that provide natural cooling through evaporation. The other areas can be flooded during the rain period.
The arrival is a contemplation moment of the awesome and impressive scenery of mountains and valley before entering the centre. This point organizes and clarifies specific areas, such as parking, and entrance point. Through a smooth ramp, visitors are introduced to the centre which is built around several interior courtyards, each of them connected with a specific function (entrance, tea house, exhibition, library, workshop). The centre connection paths run along the courtyards. The centre is organized through an orthogonal system of large fair-faced reinforced concrete beams that divide spaces in a regular way, emphasising different hierarchies and atmospheres. This structural beam system minimizes the presence of vertical structures, allowing the organization of a plant extremely flexible and with large free open spaces.
The building screens off the exterior and creates its own world around the courtyards, few openings frame portions of landscape as snapshots. Only a covered loggia leads to the external area, where a regular grid array of white pine trees garden define areas for performances and exterior exhibition. The building materiality evokes the local tradition and seeks a chromatic continuity with the surrounding landscape: externally through bricks colour and texture, and internally through materiality of concrete. Bamiyan is situated at a high-altitude and experiences low temperatures and strong sunlight. An accurate attention was given to the choice of the construction system proposed, with the intent to construct an environmentally sustainable building with excellent energy performance, ensuring hygrothermal comfort, by reducing needs for heating and cooling.
The orientation of rooms and courtyards are designed to maximize light and warmth in all seasons. The materiality of the building and the atmosphere comes from a balance and a close link between building typology, their interior space and surrounding environment. We have chosen to use few materials that provides unitary and spatial continuity, at the same time a single identity to the building. The construction system proposed was also designed in order to assure that all work could be carried out by local workers using technologies and practices that are rooted in the local culture.