Heneghan Peng's Palestinian Museum opens 18 May

by Tom Anstey | 11 May 2016

The Palestinian Museum Hub – the flagship for a planned network of museums – opens on 18 May in the West Bank north of Jerusalem.

The US$60m, (€55m, £40m) project has the intention of creating an iconic building to act as a beacon of hope for the Palestinian people. It was first mooted in 1999 but stalled multiple times due to political tensions in the region.

Heneghan Peng were appointed in 2011 to draw up the masterplan for the site, which sits next to Birzeit University in north Ramallah. The site is formed through a series of terraces, created by stone walls, designed to echo the agricultural terraces of the region.

In an interview in the latest issue of CLADmag, Conor Sreenan, project architect at Heneghan Peng, said: “Our intention wasn’t to create a building as an ‘object’ dropped onto the landscape. It was to create something which is derived directly from it: emerging from its surroundings to create a strong profile for the hilltop, integrated into the landscape, but also creating an assertive form with a distinctive identity.”

The completed phase one of the project comprises a 3,500sq m (37,673sq ft) climate controlled gallery space, amphitheatre, cafeteria with outdoor seating, classrooms, storage, a gift shop and office space. Phase two, to be completed within a 10 year timeframe, will grow the museum to 10,000sq m (107,639sq ft) and will include more gallery space.

Since not all of the museum’s target audience will be able to visit the West Bank, satellite sites have been set up in key cities with large Palestinian communities – Jerusalem, Gaza, Haifa, Beirut, Amman, Dubai, London, San Diego, and Santiago. Beirut and Santiago will open first, with the other sites to come at a later date. The approach is necessary for Gaza, since people are rarely permitted to visit or leave the area.

The museum has recently appointed a Dr Mahmoud Hawari – a research associate at the University of Oxford's Khalili Research Centre and a visiting academic at the British Museum in London – as its new director.

Hawari has previously led several archeology projects in Palestine, including excavations at Khirbat al Mafjar in Jericho from 2009 to 2014. Since then, Hawari has operated as a consultant for the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos).

“In spite of the great pride and excitement that I feel, I am also fully aware of the very significant challenges ahead, especially if the Palestinian Museum is to achieve its goals in the face of the continuing Israeli occupation – namely to act as a unifying platform for Palestinians who are dispersed in many parts of their fragmented homeland and abroad, and to support and strengthen Palestinian culture and identity,” said Hawari, who replaces Jack Persekian after he stepped down in December.

“This will be a museum that overcomes political and geographical borders, and links Palestinians together, at home and in exile, wherever they may live.”

You can read the CLADmag feature here, for more information on the challenges the architects faced to build a museum in a volatile area, where the political situation is fluid, the supply of materials, water and electricity is uncertain, the pool of labour is restricted and there is no government funding.

Mahmoud Hawari  Palestinian Museum  Palestine  Gaza  Israel  Museum  Gallery 
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The Palestinian Museum Hub – the flagship for a planned network of museums – opens on 18 May in the West Bank north of Jerusalem. The US$60m, (€55m, £40m) project has the intention of creating an iconic building to act as a beacon of hope for the Palestinian people. It was first mooted in 1999 but stalled multiple times due to political tensions in the region. Heneghan Peng were appointed
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Heneghan Peng were appointed in 2011 to draw up the masterplan for the site, which sits next to Birzeit University in north Ramallah
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