UNESCO Announces the Bamiyan Cultural Centre Design Competition
UNESCO has been given the most prominent land in Bamiyan to build a Cultural Centre. UNESCO in Afghanistan and the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, with the generous financial support of the Republic of Korea, have committed to implement a cultural centre building close to the boundaries of the World Heritage property of the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of Bamiyan. Afghanistan is currently beginning its second decade of democratic governance after a long period of political conflict. As a result the economy has suffered greatly, making Afghanistan one of the poorest nations in the world. The emerging government has had to manage this political and economic instability while making the first steps towards rebuilding and developing the foundations of rudimentary infrastructure that have been devastated by 30 years of political instability.
UNESCO and Afghan Government have focused their efforts on stabilizing a united Afghanistan, which includes promoting cross-cultural awareness among ethnic groups as a way to advance reconciliation, peace-building and economic development in Afghanistan. This new architectural programme can challenge cultural barriers, reaffirm Afghanistan’s remarkable ancient history and enforce culture as a foundational component to Afghan national identity and peace-building. The Bamiyan Cultural Centre not only will function as a facility to unify, represent and study Afghan culture, but as a space to exchange ideas, congregate and establish a vibrant community for the future.
Afghanistan has been seen as a place of conflict and strife, but this is far from the whole picture. The country is also a place of extraordinary resilience, where some of the world’s most ancient cultural traditions comingled, where there are stunningly varied landscapes, and where the people retain a deep well of hopefulness and optimism for a better future. With the realisation of the Bamiyan Cultural Centre, Afghans have the opportunity to recapture their heritage, to create a new impact on a historical site and to foster a positive relationship between their struggles and their hopes.
Funding for cultural projects is often neglected in conflict zones. In these settings, foreign aid usually prioritizes humanitarian needs and government capacity, and views cultural projects as non-essential luxuries. In Afghanistan, culture projects were neglected for too long in part because the results are usually not visible in the short-term, but are manifest as part of long-term development and the normalization of foreign aid. However, cultural rights are human rights and a sense of shared cultural attachment is arguably a prerequisite for achieving sustainable peace. At this time now in Afghanistan, of transition of security responsibility from international to national forces, there is also a shift in the focus of funding from relief and humanitarian projects to long-term development. The Bamiyan Cultural Centre project epitomizes that shift because through it, international and national entities are uniting to realize that building a nation through cultivating culture is an important way to sustain peace and advance positive aspirations for the future. Now, through this design competition, the world has the opportunity to contribute to this process.
Competition Website: Bamiyanculturalcentre.org
Competition Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QY8jIWAciuA
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