Palestinian Museum

Heneghan Peng Architects Ltd


A history embedded in the marks of the landscape

The city, however does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.
Italo Calvino

The landscape of Palestine has the “worked” quality of a city; every element of it has been touched and tells a story of intervention, production, culture, environment, commerce. Like a city, the terraced landscape has embedded within it its history. The approach to the Palestinian Museum is to draw on this history of the terraced landscape, embedding the museum into its immediate site and drawing from this site to tell a larger story of a diverse culture.


The landscape of Palestine has been informed by both the natural landscape and its native plants and also by the cultural landscape that is derived from plants and traditions that are not necessarily native to the region, Palestine has been at the crossroads of so many important trade routes, but have become embedded in and contributed to the regional culture.



Agricultural Terrace

The site is formed through a series of cascading terraces, created by field stone walls which recall the agricultural terraces of the area. The theme of the landscape, from the cultural to the native landscape, unfolds across the terraces with the more cultured and domesticated terraces close to the building, the planting changes gradually as one moves down the terraces to the west.

The cascade of terraces tells a diversity of stories, citrus brought in through trade routes, native aromatic herbs, a rich and varied landscape with connections east and west.

Terrace themes include:

  • Cultural Landscapes and themes relating to culture and history.
  • Agricultural Heritage, orchards, dry stone walls, terracing, cisterns, irrigation channels, rain fed agriculture (olives, almonds) terra rosa (red soil typical of the region and suited for agriculture.)
  • Relationship of plants to trade routes and commerce
  • Natural Landscapes and themes relating to wilderness and native plants, scrub lands, grass lands. Typical of the Bir Zeit region are oak forests, pine forests and Mediterranean scrubland.
  • Nature & Culture: Incorporation of native plants into domesticated agriculture and food/medicine. Olives and Pistachios have a wild origin; they were cultivated to produce the olive varieties and pistachio trees. Olive is used to produce soap and Pistachio in many sweets.


06The Building

The building itself emerges from the landscape to create a strong profile for the hilltop both integrated into the landscape yet creating an assertive form that has a distinctive identity. The building is sited to take maximum advantage of the view to the west and is clad in a local limestone.

The masterplan and building are designed to both draw from the place and be transformative. The design embodies building traditions but is projective with this knowledge to imagine a 21st century tradition.



Project data:
Client: The Welfare Association
Size: 3500 SQM
Status: Construction Stage
Location: Birzeit, Palestine
Designer: Heneghan Peng Architects
Project Manager: Projacs International
Main Contractor: Consolidated Contractors Company
Local Consultant (Structures, Civil, MEP, Cost): Arabtech Jardaneh
Structures|Civil: Arup
Building Services: Arup
QS: Davis Langdon
Concept Lighting: Bartenbach Lichlabor
Fire: Arup

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