future and tradition

Conceiving an architectural form that embodies the complex historical, social and cultural influences that have shaped Modern Afghanistan, particularly in the “Buddha Valley”, represents a serious challenge. In fact, the rich and diverse cultural background that has characterized this country over the centuries has often been ignored by the simplistic representations provided by the mass media in the Western world. Since the Nineteenth century, cultural spaces have always reflected and exemplified the evolution of the social relationships taking place in the urban community, thus representing the most evolved example of “public architecture”. For this reason, the Bamiyan Cultural Centre, as we intend it, should be able to support and influence the growth of the nearby urban centres, and also to define a clear relationship with the environment and the landscape. The Buddha Cliff represents the ideal to which the building should aspire, stimulating a synergy involving both history and archaeology. The cultural centre should be profoundly linked with the valley, in a continuous dialectical relationship that is synthesized by the architectural organism. In this territorial context, the urban form holds a very special meaning: the deep intertwining between the ancient caves and the dense urban settlements, both emblematic of the urban “fabric” concept, has a profound influence on the morphological and typological characteristics of the proposed architectural form. Indeed, all the main operational and recreational functions are supposed to take place under the plane-rectangular roof, which is the basic element of the whole architecture and is designed by the sunlight following the Cartesian axes: the internal structure will be developed in an organic sequence of closed, semi-closed and open spaces, all located on a single level. Each elementary unit is thought to be technologically and functionally autonomous and connected to the other units through the main indoor walking path. The aesthetics of the building is strongly influenced by the most recent architectural languages, according to the idea that the new architectural form should represent a “cultural container”, thus developing solid cultural links with both the local context and the most influent international centres. The choice of the materials reflects the regional peculiarities, considering most of them are widely available in the local area. Moreover, the functional units of the building are designed following the customs and traditions that are part of the local cultural heritage: two remarkable examples in this respect are represented by the courtyards, which can be viewed as a mix between an open and a closed space, and the craft making school, which is aimed to host teaching sessions of ceramics, wood-carving, miniature, and calligraphy. The spatial experience is influenced by the relaxed and mutual influence between modernity and tradition. All the proposed spaces feature high levels of flexibility and adaptability, in order to be able to adjust to the diverse mix of functions and events that will be hosted by the centre, but also to facilitate future renovation activities. The external walls, characterized by the combination of opaque and transparent surfaces, are enclosed in a wooden bars matrix. The larger spaces (such as the performance-hall and the exhibitions-space) are characterized by glass walls which can be opened completely, in order to create a more direct connection with the external environment.The design of the Bamiyan Cultural Centre is aimed to achieve both the highest level of environmental comfort and a very low energy consumption.One of the most effective means to reach the aforementioned goals is to follow the “Passivhaus” standard: this approach, initially developed in Germany (1988 Feist-Adamson), is applicable worldwide by modifying the quality requirements of all the components according to the local climatic conditions.An high thermal insulation of the building, combined with triple-low emission glasses, a reduced influence of thermal bridges, an highly efficient airtight in the heated walls, and heat recovery devices for mechanical ventilation in the indoor units, can ensure energy savings of about 90% compared to the consumption of a minimum-standard designed building made in Italy. Moreover, the window frames which are exposed to the South, function as “passive” solar systems: the high insulation on these frames (used in combination with very-Low Dispersion glasses) can maximize, during winter, the thermal load of the solar radiation, thanks to the high value of the solar factor “g”. During summer, instead, it is important to reduce the thermal load, by shading these surfaces from the outside; the jutting out roof-slab plays a key role in this respect. The Passivhaus (P.H.) standard ensures a high level of indoor comfort, healthy indoor air quality throughout the year, absence of mould, very low heating costs and a dramatic reduction of the environmental impact.
The interior surfaces of a P.H. building are uniformly warm, and the difference between them and the indoor space is very limited. The seismic-proof structure will be built according to both the Eurocodes performance requirements and the “Normativa Italiana sulle Costruzioni”. The structure analysis will be performed using the highest values of acceleration parameters at the ground level that can be used in Italy, which are comparable to the earth conditions of the Bamiyan site.
The aforementioned test can be effectively performed by choosing a small building, in order to limit the influence of the horizontal forces generated by an earthquake: the chosen building should be supported by a constant-thickness foundation. The elevated structures are made of “cross-lam” wood panels, which are highly efficient during earthquakes. The plane roof is composed of several reinforced-concrete slabs, connected to the wooden panels underneath.

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