The Palestinian Museum opened on 18 May 2016, despite not having any exhibits. It took more than one year for the Museum to have its inaugural exhibition in August 2017. The museum designed by Irish architect Heneghan Peng, is the largest cultural center on West Bank. The Museum that mimics the surrounding landscape is one of the recipients of this year’s Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The project has won several other awards too. So, what’s so special about this project?
In August, the museum won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, along with five other projects. “The selection of the Museum was due to its powerful embodiment of a cultural identity under duress at the intersection of land and architecture, nature and people,” the jury said in the press release. Thus, reasoning was not purely architectural but political too. However, the museum has its own share of architectural features that distinguishes it from other museums.
Stretching over an area of 10 acres of land on lease from Birzeit University, the museum was created by the Taawon Welfare Association, based in Switzerland. The museum was noted for marrying an aesthetically pleasing design with environmental responsibility. The Irish architect who had also designed the Grand Egyptian Museum, had reportedly spent four months in Palestine to familiarize himself with the country’s architectural heritage before he submitted his project for a multipurpose center of culture and education.
With a design inspired by the surrounding rural landscape, the building integrates seamlessly into its environment. The building’s facade is made of local limestone and its cascading gardens represent the history of Palestinian vegetation and agriculture. According to available information, builders laid terraces by hand, incorporating artisanal knowledge and skill. Outdoor garden spaces extend interior spaces to facilitate outdoor exhibitions and blend the building with its environment. The building’s interior contains galleries, educational and research facilities, and administrative offices.
The museum is Palestine’s first green building following the LEED rating system. Energy saving measures help the museum to effect savings up to 15% of its annual energy consumption and 48% of its annual water consumption.