The world’s oldest continuously inhabited city is now home to a curious new structure. AAU Anastas and Laboratoire GSA built and designed a giant stone arch in Jericho that combines ancient building materials with digital fabrication. The piece, titled Stone Matters, is the first prototype and module of the city’s el-Atlal artists and writers residency building.
Echoing the region’s ancient construction techniques, Stone Matters was built as a stone vault that deviates from its predecessors with its large latticed appearance. The vault covers a surface area of 60 square meters and is made up of 300 interlocking and mutually supported unique stone blocks. The precise placement and shape of each block was determined with the help of computer-aided design.
The architects used local resources and existing production techniques to constructs Stone Matters. For instance, the polystyrene blocks used for formwork were roughly cut in a local factory before transported to another factory for robotic carving.
“Palestine suffers of a misuse of stone as a structural material: while it was an abundant material used for structural purposes in the past, it is now used as a cladding material only and the know-how of stone building is disappearing,” writes AAU Anastas. “The research aims at including stone stereotomy – the processes of cutting stones – construction processes in contemporary architecture. It relies on novel computational simulation and fabrication techniques in order to present a modern stone construction technique as part of a local and global architectural language.”