con-cave: bamiyan cultural center

Year: 2015
Size: 2,200 m2
Type: cultural
Status: competition
Location: Bamiyan, Afghanistan
Client: Unesco Kabul

Partners in charge: Chen Chen, Federico Ruberto, Nicola Saladino
Design team: Wei Zhao

Con-cave is a spatial intervention that shapes the steep terrain of the site playing with the infiltration of the light: gathering, concentrating and dissipating it through the earthy sinuosity of interconnected underground passageways and tunnels. The varying chiaroscuro embraces the spaces, highlighting the materiality of the terrain, the solidity, and the different levels of humidity of the concrete walls. The light, blooming locally, becomes a sublime wave investing the visitor and inundating the gaze with the history and the culture of the Afghan landscape. The building opens towards the outside with rooms and terraces only in specific locations, offering an intentional selection of belvedere and sublime points of view.

The exploration of the cavities and tunnels shows the adherence of the volume to the natural conditions of the hill. Its topology is a modulation between naturalness and artificialness. It is not the stage of a naïve hypocritical camouflage but it is instead a synthetic morphological and structural unity that emerges from the landscape. Such imperfect fusion results in a series of perceptible longitudinal cuts that consciously declare, at points, the presence of the artefact.

It is not a self-contained building but a piece of public and open infrastructure where the indoor spaces are reduced to the minimal programmatic requirements. Cutting the land, it connects the valley with the hilltop, forming a variety of open, protected and enclosed spaces: gathering areas for the everyday uses of the local community and the visitors.

The maze of connections emphasizes the isomorphism of the building with the topography of the site. Taking advantage of the existing hill, its slopes and caverns are placed in accordance to the morphology of the terrain and its structural resistance. The built volumes result as a negotiation between the programmatic requirements, the autochthonous Afghan cave typologies, the regional climate, the lighting conditions, the selection of views, etc.

Taking all the previous factors at its premise, the spatial configuration of the building generates its continuity and discontinuities by the hybridization of two typologies: the chamber and the tunnel. The chamber locally defines the program and controls the space; the tunnel allows the blend to happen, the intentional connection of several caves into one system. The morphological metamorphosis between the “singularities” of local conditions is assessed and defined at each point, resulting in an “imperfect continuity”. This almost seamless interconnectedness, the transition between the specificity of several places is not a simple merging operation but an act of decision, a play made of a continuous lighting and spatial modulation, protrusion, invasions and interruptions.