Bamiyan Cultural Centre
Run by UNESCO, this competition was for a 2000m2 cultural centre in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Once home to 60m high Buddha statues, carved into the cliffs of the Hindu Kush mountains, the Bamiyan Valley was part of the Silk Road and an outpost of Buddhism and trade. The Buddha Statues and a series of monk’s hermitages, decorated with oil-painted frescoes on the walls and ceilings of caves carved into the sandstone cliffs, were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
UNESCO’s management of the site has sought to raise the awareness of the reconstruction effort of these Buddha statues, and has recently attracted independent funding from the South Korean government to establish a cultural centre on a hill-top site on the other side of the valley from the now empty niches where the Buddhas once stood.
Our proposal proposed a series of interconnected pavilions and courtyard gardens nestled into the hill-slope, carving a series of exhibition spaces and galleries into the rock face in a manner that echoed the partially destroyed caves surrounding the Buddha statues. Rooms and new pavilions were conceptually considered as protrusions from or intrusions into the hillside, creating a spatial experience of undulating moments of exposure and enclosure as visitors moved along the cliff face.
The new pavilions – simple rectangular volumes carefully aligned along the natural path suggested by the topography – were proposed to be clad in local and regional stones, to create a collection of related but independent pavilions whose monolithic expression echoed the lost carved Buddhas.
Linking together the logic of carved and protruding rooms was proposed a series of plateaus and courtyards along the cliff edge, spaces of reflection, gathering, event and celebration – spaces to view the decimated cliffs where the Buddha’s once stood on the cliffs across the valley.