This blog chronicles the progress of Design Studio 4's workshop in Beit Iksa, West Bank, Palestine which ran in January 2013. DS4 is an MArchD studio running at the Oxford School of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom.
Cultivating Alternative Possibilities:
A collective day for designing, making and interacting to bring life back to the historic centre of Beit Iksa
Building on Riwaq’s approach to protect and bring life back to historic centres, the aim of this workshop is to offer a space for further exploration with alternative building materials, techniques and design initiatives, all of which are hoped to offer creative possibilities while rethinking historic centres in Palestine. The different elements that we will be introducing within the workshop – through designing and making – are meant to explore affordable principles that can further enhance the living conditions. Ones which are responsive to the Palestinian identity, context, economic, social and political conditions. Above all, they very much build on the creative local skills that the residents of Beit Iksa has. Consequently, 3 key themes will be initially addressed in the workshop; Water, Birds, and Earth/Stone. The elements are meant to shed a light on Palestine’s natural resources, with their opportunities and threats. We will try to collectively explore how could one protect and celebrate them through design. With the joint collaboration between Riwaq, NG Architects, Beit Iksa community and Beit Iksa Village Council and with the involvement of students of architecture from Oxford Brookes University, we will be working on building temporary elements and devices in different public spaces for the use of the local residents of Beit Iksa. These include a rammed-earth wall along with other hybrid materials. A water filtration device that can be used for domestic purposes to clean water. A ‘bird shading’ structure along with an energy producing bike that will convert physical movement into lighting and sound elements for the historic centre.
Group One - Rammed Earth Team
As a way to find alternatives to build with stone, and in order to address the excessive
use of quarries and their damage to landscape and environment, rammed earth can be an
alternative structural solution in Palestine. On one hand, it is available on site and therefore
is economically viable. On the other hand, it is an organic material that can be easily
treated and dealt with. The team will therefore be involved in the design, preparation and
building of fragments of a rammed earth wall, which will be part of a temporary public
space. The process involves preparing the form work, the mixture with its different elements
to be injected within it, as well as the ramming process itself.
Group Two - Gabion Wall/Stone Team
As an integral part of the rammed earth wall, the group will also work on the making and installation of gabion walls. This will set the base for a low-cost foundation for the rammed earth wall. The aim is to explore new methods of construction that make use of existing small stones and rubble that are not necessarily possible to utilize otherwise.
Group Three - Water Filtration Team
The water filtration team will explore some simple and affordable measures to filter grey water to be utilized for domestic purposes. Along with community awareness activities the team will try to put together a domestic devise with principles that can assist locals in cleaning water under the current scarce water conditions.
Group Four - Birds Team
The birds team will explore the sky as a space for possibilities while celebrating Palestine’s unique nature – which is known to be one of the busiest corridors for bird migration in the whole world. The team will be creating simple structures to attract birds working along with the children from the local community. The shed will create a key stitching points that connects the historic centre together. Furthermore, the shed will also be directly connected to a bike which will generate electricity from kinetic energy produced in partnership with the local residents.
This workshop is a joint venture between Riwaq, NGArchitects, Oxford Brookes University: School of Architecture, Beit Iksa Village Council & the local residents of Beit Iksa.