The design of the Bamiyan Valley Cultural Centre is woven into the landscape based on a sensitive and responsive approach to the context and nature of Bamiyan. The basic idea was to design the built forms so as to be in consonance with the landscape. It encourages a flow of people through a new cultural core that opens out to the views of the Buddha Cliff. The intent was to create a destination for the visitor, a place to spend the day exploring and unwinding.
In the design, the void of the Buddha on the cliff is represented horizontally on the ground plane, oriented towards the bigger Buddha of the same scale, hugging the contours. The initial void leads to the creation of space. The “absence” of the past creates the present, subtraction in architecture. The void is a cavernous space, a representation of the Buddha Cliff, with the walls framing the view of the Buddha Cliff at a distance.
The Cultural Centre is partially submerged along the natural contours, reflecting rock cut Buddhist architecture. The carefully arranged fragmental pavilions create courtyards to pause and focus the visitor’s eye towards the Buddha Cliff. The design of the pavilions of the Cultural Centre, influenced by the two Buddhist and Islamic cultures, maintains a size of 8m x 8m x 8m cubes that intersect one another.
The sculptural court forms an internal street. Unlike a corridor, it is a large open space that allows people to congregate. It is designed to be an extension of the remarkable site. Along with indoor exhibition spaces clustered around this street, the street itself acts as an outdoor exhibition space for sculptures with interactive exhibits. The interior exhibition spaces are flexible and connected to outdoor spaces - a courtyard and the street, thus creating a fluid and varied experience for the visitor. This street terminates into a viewing point towards the larger Buddha enclave.
Nestled between bare stone walls from excavation of the earth, the visitor travels along the contours, which form amphitheatres and widen at points into open spaces for cultural performances. This meandering street linking different pavilions represents the Silk Route that passed through this region creating a connection between the West and the East. The street, very much like the Silk Route, is a space for art, religious and cultural exchanges.
The Cultural Centre is divided into three zones: Cultural Zone - comprising of a covered auditorium, an open amphitheatre, tea house, exhibition spaces and open performance spaces; Administrative Zone comprising of meeting rooms and offices; Educational Zone - classrooms, workshops, library and research laboratories.
The building’s siting and orientation are the first strategic moves toward sustainability. The partially submerged structure mitigates the extremes in temperature. Its orientation optimizes passive solar performance.
All the pavilions receive natural direct or indirect light based on the functional need of each pavilion. The courtyards form light wells. These are a representation of the caves alongside the niches, in the horizontal plane.
Landscape design mimics the patterns of the agrarian lands surrounding the site. The farmlands symbolise the present.
In addition to showcasing the impressive history of the region as a World Heritage Site, the Bamiyan Valley Cultural Centre is projected to be a centre that protects the intangible Bamiyan and Afghani heritage, establishes tourism facilities, leading to a comprehensive function to enhance the economy of the region.
Status: Competition Entry
Location: Bamiyan, AF
Additional Credits: Anca Florescu, Ashish Gupta, Niranjan Fulsundar, Neha Gupta, Prachi Donde