American Univesity of Beirut

MSFEA students win second prize for architecture project reconstructing a destroyed Palestinian village

​A group of students and alumni from the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) composed of team leader Nour Balshi (BArch 2019), Christina Battikha (BArch 2019), Careen and Carmen Matta (BArch 2019), and Elio Moussa (BArch 2020) were awarded the second prize for their project FloodGate, submitted to the 'Reconstructing Destroyed Palestinian Villages' competition.

The competition was launched by the Palestine Land Society, based in the UK, as a call for students to propose an adapted design for one of the hundreds of villages destroyed and depopulated by the Israelis in 1948.

This year marks the third edition of the competition which has expanded its scope to include AUB for the first time since it was launched. Students from the architecture and design department at MSFEA participated as groups. The jury took place on September 6th, 2019 in a live video conference and shortlisted projects were presented at the P21 Gallery in London.

Below is a description of the project as written by the group:

FloodGate is the proposed design for the rebirth of Ain Ghazal, a Palestinian village located in the district of Haifa, destroyed in 1948. Ain Ghazal used to be a prosperous village, relying on agriculture and farming; but most importantly, it is a symbol of Palestinian resistance, as it was one of the last villages to resist the Israeli invasion. The Israelis later on built a road cutting through the village, disfiguring it further.

What FloodGate proposes is a reinterpretation of the Ain, which will visually and metaphorically drown the Israeli presence. In fact, a water reservoir would be created between two hills, above the Israeli road, retained by a structure that would host the core functions of the village. This infrastructure would then revive Ain Ghazal by providing it with water. Water will bring back life to it, ensuring its independence from the Israeli grid, and an enduring and autonomous economy. Around it, the village develops along the rhythm of its inhabitants, naturally growing, uniting with its land as an ultimate symbol of resistance and belonging.

As water flows again, life comes back to Ain Ghazal. The water reservoir becomes an inhabited infrastructure irrigating agriculture lands and hosting the cultural activities of the village, acting as a bridge not only between the hills, but also between the past of the village and its future. The structure acts as a makeshift space as well. Temporary houses are provided for inhabitants as well to reside while they build their own houses. All functions are embedded in this structure that becomes a landmark, acting as the heart and brain of the village. It is the gate to the town, as its main façade inevitably welcomes those who are driving on the road with its main tower flagging the village below. The structure is therefore a multifaceted gesture that is spatial, visual, functional, and symbolic.

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