Um El Fahem Museum
A Museum as a Catalyst for Urbanization according to Senan Abdelqader
Umm el-Fahems present condition is underlain by a paradox while its congested urban fabric, density and size are that of a city, its social constitution and cultural mentality are that of a village a situation that may be described as urbanization without urbanity. Typical of most Palestinian villages and cities within Israel, it is indicative of a lack of resources, ambiguous identity, and the marginalization of the Palestinian minority within Israeli society: living withdrawn, torn between rural traditions and aspirations for a modern life-style. In short: Palestinian culture in Israel suffers from the traumatic loss of the city as a cultural sphere.
The plan to develop Umm el-Fahem toward the main regional thoroughfare, Wadi 'Ara Road, is fuelled by the wish to end this condition of physical, social and cultural introversion. Within the next decade, the new urban neighborhood Qtan Eldabe will grow: a unique and unprecedented opportunity for Palestinians inside Israel to imagine and realize a vision of what a contemporary urban center might be. Already, many public functions that found no place in the existing city center are located within close proximity to one another: a stadium, a swimming pool, a youth center, and independent schools. A confident and profoundly new vision of how these functions could be connected into a spatial and programmatic ensemble of public institutions, however, has been missing thus far. They remain additive, disconnected, unrelated, and suburban in character.
Senan Abdelqaders vision for the new Umm el-Fahem Museum of Contemporary Art addresses this lack on a cultural, programmatic and spatial level. Emerging from the work of the widely acknowledged local Art Gallery, a new public institution will be placed at the heart of this new city center: a platform for inter-cultural dialogue, encounter, and cultural enrichment of national importance. Abdelqaders design seeks to enhance this spirit of regained self-confidence. As an urban intervention it not only provides a missing link that transforms the fragmented landscape of public functions into an ensemble, but it also re-orients this new center towards one of Umm el-Fahem's most striking assets: the breathtaking view across Wadi 'Ara and the eastern Carmel landscape. The structure is conceived not as a self-referential monument, but as a memorable moment of passage across a dramatic valley that divides two neighborhoods. Abdelqaders architecture combines an infrastructural idea of street and bridge with the spatial concept of a public forum and landscape balcony: connecting the everyday experience of crossing or meeting strangers with a celebration of the landscape and the experience of art. Light wells, ramps and staircases invite the passerby to descend into the body of this bridge structure and reveal a multi-functional interior whose flexible spaces may be used for exhibitions, workshops, educational functions, an auditorium, library and archive, a cafeteria, apartments for artists-in-residence, and storage.
Programmatically and spatially the museum is conceived as a catalyst for a new process of urbanization with urbanity.