Bamiyan Cultural Center

Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan

Although the Bamiyan Valley is now most famous for the destruction of its monumental Buddha statues at the hands of the Taliban, it had long served as a place where European, Indian, and Islamic cultures met and collaborated. For an international design competition, hosted by UNESCO and the Ministry of Information and Culture of Afghanistan, we developed a concept for a cultural center that paid homage to the Valley as a place ruled by contrasting but interdependent forces in balance.

The courtyard is a central feature here, as it is in the architecture in central Asia, but where they typically isolate individuals from the outside, the center’s two courtyards allow for expansive views of the valley, and unify public elements and more private spaces. To represent balance with nature, local materials were selected, and a wastewater reclamation system was designed where flora and microorganisms would break down toxins and collect purified water into a reflecting pool.