Project Entry 2014 for Africa Middle East
Last updated: March 31, 2014 Beit Iksa, Palestine
Part of a larger scheme to revive the historic center of Beit Iksa, a small Palestinian village of 1,600 people near Jerusalem, the project offers a response to the village’s isolation and limited resources. In a first step, two abandoned buildings will be adapted for reuse as working spaces with an eco-kitchen for the local women’s association, followed by the rehabilitation of surrounding spaces. The new facilities will include interactive educational playgrounds for children, winter and summer seating areas, and a protected bird habitat.
It is an effort to bring life back to this abandoned site by combining design, planning, restoration, landscaping, and infrastructure, thus improving local living conditions and biodiversity, while adding to the aesthetic quality of Beit Iksa.
This project is based on respect, admiration and belief in the historic built environment. It is an effort to bring life back by combining design, planning, restoration, landscaping and infrastructure. It is to reveal the forgotten beauty of Beit Iksa and to add few contemporary elements that make it more appealing to current needs. New functions, shaded landscape, and open space will create a platform for meeting and learning. The new facilities will include an environmental play-area for children, eco-kitchen for women, winter and summer seating areas, and a protected bird habitat area, thus improving local living conditions and biodiversity – as well as contributing to the aesthetic quality of Beit Iksa.
This initiative is part of a learning lab for ongoing and future regeneration projects of Riwaq Centre for Architectural Conservation (Riwaq). In 2009 Riwaq set a goal to rehabilitate 50 historic centers, Beit Iksa is “number nine”. Newly introduced measures such as green roofs, grey water filtration, and passive heating and cooling, capitalize on local resources and minimize waste. These were tested and are implemented in the project with a plan to learn and replicate. The project team will be involved with the community for the next two years, and has plans to publish a booklet and showcase the project on their website.
The project is based on a year-long process with the community prior to its implementation. Women led the way in the training on grey water and green roof installation. The building itself has been leased free-of-charge to the women for 12 years. Local landlords offered the surrounding spaces for communal use. The project is based on local knowledge in construction, combining high-tech features using low-tech means. Traditional building materials on site are recycled. Rammed earth and gabion wall techniques were tested as alternatives to concrete. Since Palestine is one of the busiest corridors for bird migration in the world, hosting around 500 million birds every season, and Beit Iksa is located along the bird route – part of the project is a decorative bird folly that provides a nesting and rest-area.
The project is a collective effort; Riwaq initiated and fund-raised for the project, the community contributed from its own resources, individuals offered their properties, and the Village Council offered public works. Once completed, the eco-kitchen will support 35 women bread-winners, contributing to long-term economic and social life through the reclamation of the historic space and reintroduction of communal practices.