2019 Award Recipient - The Palestinian Museum
“The Palestinian Museum stands as the powerful embodiment of a cultural identity under duress at the intersection of land and architecture, nature and people...The building’s very existence, its level of detailing and the perfection of its design and specifications – built despite a condition of occupation and siege – can be understood as nothing less than an act of hope for current and future generations.”
Built to celebrate Palestinian heritage and with a stated aim to ‘foster a culture of dialogue and tolerance’, the museum is a flagship project of Palestine’s largest NGO, with support from nearby Birzeit University.
The site is defined by agricultural terraces formed of dry-stone walls erected by local villagers to adapt the terrain for cultivation. Selected through an international competition, the design takes its cues from this setting. The building’s plan is double-wedge- shaped. The main visitor spaces are at entrance level, limiting the need for vertical circulation. A pre-existing hollow in the topography is exploited to provide additional accommodation underneath the south wing, including stores and an education/ research center, leading to a sheltered outdoor amphitheater.
The zigzagging forms of the Museum’s architecture and hillside gardens are inspired by the surrounding agricultural terraces, stressing the link with the land and symbolizing resistance to the West Bank’s military occupation. Palestinian limestone is used for both façade cladding and exterior paving, unifying the scheme. The west façade’s masonry is cranked upwards in two places, exposing triangular curtain walls with metal fins, whose sizes and locations protect the interior from solar glare and heat, while maximizing natural light – one of a number of measures that have earned the building its LEED Gold certification.
The garden includes agricultural crops and more refined plantings nearer the buildings, intended to supply the café with typical Palestinian produce. Rainwater from the terrace and amphitheater is harvested for use in the irrigation and flush systems, and wastewater is treated also for use in irrigation.