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The Project in Birzeit, which crowns a terraced hill overlooking the Mediterranean, is the recipient of the LEED Gold certification because of its sustainable construction.
The Aga Khan Award for Architecture’s mandate is different from that of many other architecture prizes: it not only rewards architects, but also identifies municipalities, builders, clients, master artisans and engineers who have played important roles in the realisation of a project. Prizes have been given to projects across the world, from France to China. Architects and planners from New York to Dhaka have received one of 122 awards. During the nomination process, more than 9,000 building projects have been documented. The Award was established by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1977 to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully addressed the needs and aspirations of communities in which Muslims have a significant presence.
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 Palestinian heritage. 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 (sanasil) erected by local villagers to adapt the terrain for cultivation. Selected through an international competition, the design takes its cues from this setting and is firmly embedded within it. An access road leads to the top of the hill where approaching visitors glimpse views out of the other side of the building, across this characteristic landscape and to the Mediterranean 40km to the west.