The introduction of a contemporary building onto a historic site always raises the question of whether its architecture enhances the value of its setting and derives its value from the immediate surroundings.
We have adopted an approach that is conscious of its historical context and seeks to respect the cultural importance of the surrounding landscape and people. Moreover, we found studying the future of Bamiyan City and the significance of a cultural center in its current social and economic setting to be crucial in setting the premise for our concept.
Three low-key, unassuming volumes define the project. They are intuitively arranged on the lower terrace of the site and tied together by the plaza area. Access to the plaza is multifold, and there is no single way to approach the independent volumes.
By fragmenting the design into three volumes and placing them at different levels along the movement route that navigates a 10-meter level difference within the site, we follow the logic and the grain of the surrounding fabric. The volume on the western edge is sunken below the ground, setting up a visual dialogue with the surrounding terrain.
The sizing and internal configuration of these volumes follow the generic spatial configuration as conceptualized. Inner parent volumes contain spaces for cultural activities with light courts and outer bays wrap around the parent volumes are conceived for circulation or storage spaces/small shops, depending on the level of the volume.
When approached from the east, the visitors will encounter a small volume housing the information center. A walled path then leads down to the plaza via a descending ramp running along the periphery of the visitor center. A performance center located on the lower level of this volume can be directly accessed from the plaza. Visitors moving along the ramp can access shops located along the peripheral bay of this volume. The square acts as a space for repose, nestled between three volumes. The plaza opens on its north to a planted canopy where temporary pavilions and low platforms can be built as places to sell local products.
The conference and exhibition center, completely sunken into the terrain, are accessed via a downward descent of five meters from the plaza along a set of ramps leading to the edge of the western cliff before entering the volume. The only aspect of this volume that projects above the plaza level is an open pavilion that will be used as a teahouse.
A third volume houses research and library facilities along with classrooms and workshops and can be accessed by ascending from the plaza and on the way to the contemplative garden along the north-south axis of the site.