Bamiyan Cultural Center
Type: Institutional Space
Design Team: Ipsit Patel, Rika Chaudhry, Shruti Gaonkar, Pooja Katara, Jaynish Shah
Project Size: 2,500 Sq. ft.
Program: Cultural Centre
Status: Competition Entry
Narrating Walls – the story of Bamiyan Cultural Center
You don't stumble upon your heritage. It's there, just waiting to be explored and shared. - Robbie Robertson
The architecture wishes to celebrate life in Bamiyan and while respecting the loss of the Buddhas. The building acts as a backdrop to all the colourful cultural activities that will take place on site. The majestic views of the lost Buddhas are mesmerising and humbling. Therefore the first instinct was to not obstruct the view in any way and to make and building invisible as you approach the centre. The building is hence perceived as a series of landscape walls and terraces, as one approaches the cultural centre from the southern- higher end of the site.
The approach from the pedestrian access that is through the market street is of human scale, where proposed programs could take place in a weekly manner. Thus bringing life and colour to the site while adding very little to the built mass.
The building is conceived as a series of parallel large walls and frames that create an impression of voids in the landscape. These voids when viewed from the valley side reflect the voids of the Bamiyan caves; which is a conscious yet subtle act of reverence in memory of the lost Buddhas.
Climatic and Topographical Response:
The orientation of the building is a result of the climatic analysis of the site while taking advantage of the existing nature of the site’s topography. The parallel walls are oriented in northwest southeast directions, perpendicular to the existing slopes prevalent on site. This is in alignment with the direction of the pleasant summer breeze coming from the North-Northwest.
While in the harsh winter months the cold winds blow from the South and Southwest. As the land slopes away the building is tucked into this slope, it is thus shielded from the cold winds which blow over the terraces of the complex.
The placement and treatment of openings are determined by the nature of light required within the space. Diffused light from above is employed for the exhibition spaces while openings that can be regulated are designed for the training and research areas.
Zoning, spatiality and circulation:
The building is an amalgamation of many slices of varying scales of spaces. The private zones have been placed in the middle and while the larger public functions flank the south and north of the complex. The performance spaces are placed on the south, with vehicular access, while the exhibition and museum spaces offer pedestrian access and are approached via the market road from the northeast.
As one approaches the site from the South, facing the Buddha caves, the landscape walls and varying levels of green and dry terraces are visible, reminiscent of patchwork agricultural fields. The walls guide the visitor down into the building through a series of landscape elements. The building slowly reveals itself through a sequence of spaces, alternating between enclosed spaces and open courtyard that are placed within a progression of parallel walls.
The visitor moves from large public functions to more private and smaller intimate spaces. The public spaces spill out onto larger open spaces, while the more private training and research areas open out onto smaller enclosed courts. There is an ordered sequence of circulation for the public and private zones, this is consciously done in section and plan to segregate both the zones.
The users walk through the series of walls, courtyards and roof scapes to the other end of the building, via progression of functions. Along this walk the visitor goes through diverse outdoor spaces, some are inward looking, some extrovert in nature. The views of the valley and the Buddha caves are framed from these spaces, hence providing a varied experience throughout the walk. At the end of the journey he is slowly brought out onto the landscape and street market on the Northern side of the complex.
The two ends of the complex offer varied experiences for the visitor. When the site is approached from the local market street, the pedestrian scale is maintained as the visitor moves through landscaped open public spaces, designed as a streetscape, an extension of the local market. This streetscape has been designed to cater to a variety of cultural functions conceived to be occupied by a plethora of local activities, for example weekly markets, carnivals, travelling ‘melas’, cyclic handicraft shops.
Sustainability and Cultural heritage
‘Conservation is a balance between preserving the special character, quality, and significance of the historic place and facilitating change in a way that sustains it into the future.’- Susan MacDonald
The site has much to offer and inspires us in many ways; the vast magnificent views of the valley, the remains of a rich embedded multi-cultural past, the resilience and vitality of the local people and the omnipresent voids of the Buddhism reminder of Afghanistan’s recent conflict-ridden past. Working within this multi-layered context, we have conceived a building that will offer spaces for the visitors to gather, communicate, perform, learn and share their past and discuss their future. This building will transcend its physicality which will improve lives by restoring hope in the place. This center hopes to preserve and celebrate the life and culture of Bamiyan. Nestled within an inspiring context, this built platform will help people to move beyond conflict and to reclaim their shared heritage, while building a foundation for a peaceful future.
Vernacular building materials and technologies are to be utilized to achieve an architectural integrity, and to gain a harmonious relationship between the natural and surrounding built environment. The main built mass consists of thick mud baked brick walls with stucco plaster and flat concrete slabs that house green and dry terraces, skylights and solar panels. The skylights within the slabs and atop the double brick walls are made of glass blocks that let in diffused light. Openings consist of wooden louvers that can regulate the amount of light and air within the spaces, with minimal use of double glazed glass to control the temperature within the spaces.
‘As the soil, however rich it may be,
Cannot be productive without cultivation,
So the mind without culture can never produce good fruit.’