An Argentina-based team led by architect Carlos Nahuel Recabarren just won the UNESCO competition to design the Bamiyan Cultural Center in Afghanistan. Located near the site where two seventh-century statues of Buddha were destroyed by Taliban militants, the proposal features a huge public park with a sunken building complex and a public plaza with a large pool.
The proposal, entitled Descriptive Memory: The Eternal Presence of Absence, envisions a system of negative spaces that meander through the landscape of a key Buddhist site on the ancient Silk Road trading route in Afghanistan. The volumes of the center surround a large public plaza with a reflecting pool. It is meant to act not as a new space but a discovered one-an archeological site carved out of the ground.
The design incorporates several caves dating from between the third and fifth century located at the foothills of the cliffs along the valley. These sites were used as Buddhist monasteries, chapels and sanctuaries. In order to reconstruct the area post-war, UNESCO teamed up with the Afghan government’s Ministry of Information and Culture and launched a competition which would provide a design for a new building.
The winning design was chosen by a jury of seven experts, including Architecture for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair and the Cooper Union‘s acting dean Elizabeth O’Donnell. The $2.5 million (£1.6 million) project will move to construction phase immediately. The competition was followed by a public controversy, when architect Kia Massoudi, one of the other entrants, launched an online petition against the final decision, claiming that the winning design “neglected many points and criteria mentioned in the brief.” So far, the petition has been signed by 70 professionals.