Title: Women's Eco Kitchen and Children's Environmental Playground
Team: NG Architects in partnership with Palestine Regeneration Team (PART) and
RIWAQ: Centre for Architectural Conservation
Location:Beit Iksa, Palestine
Dates: 2012- present
Beit Iksa might be one of the main historic West Bank centres where the play between the real and the speculative is best manifested. Through the aim to broaden the matrix of the ‘50 Villages’ project --in collaboration with Riwaq -- beyond just the conservation of single building, a new dialogue between mapping, testing, making, imagining and constructing is currently creating different moments of possibility on the ground. These different ideas however need to be seen as moments of slow change. Some of the interventions are very subtle and invisible, others are open-ended; all however, seek to create conditions born from everyday narratives for things to happen.
The Eco KItchen
The Eco Kitchen design is simply one of a range of built interventions now being implemented in Beit Iksa. It is designed as a prototype to empower the Palestinian community and also respond to the urgent environmental challenges that they face daily. The testing out of new building materials, the exploring of affordable methods to collect and filter water, and search with local community groups to develop low-cost and passive forms of heating and cooling are all essential ingredients of the project.
The design proposals for Beit Iksa are not only centred on the buildings. The intiative is also about the activities that adjoin the village, and an imaginative socio-economic program which has been developed to ensure the project’s sustainability.
Following our exploration of the Air, a ‘bird folly’ is designed to mark one of the key points located on the Memory Belt mentioned earlier. It aims to respond to the strategic location of the village in relation to Jerusalem and birds’ migratory movement. The folly offers a protected habitat for birds to nest in, while also allowing for a space for children to be able to feed and watch birds.
The strategic location of the folly overlooking the forgotten villages of Lifta, Deir Yasin and parts of Jerusalem, is a starting point for creating the ‘aerial bridges’ mentioned early. Our hope is to accumulate the process over time by establishing bird stations/follies in different villages to mark the bird migration as ‘invisible bridges’.
As a mean to involve and empower women, and build upon their local skills, a training program has been developed in partnership with another NGO, called MAAN. Through this program, local women will be trained to provide food for the local school so as to assure them a constant income. Additionally, as part of the private housing initiative spread headed by Shatha Safi (see Hajja chapter), local residents are currently becoming involved in the revitalization process. Many have proposed some form of a ‘swap scheme’. For example, the village blacksmith is going to be doing all of the metalwork needed to restore Beit Iksa’s historic fabric. In return, he will be provided with his own grey-water treatment system and a ‘green roof’ to enhance his own home.