PLUG-In Hebron is a dynamic new urban renewal project for the conflict-shorn West Bank city. Following years of what the designers call “reciprocal violence,” the Israeli military split Hebron into two separate zones. The latter, H2, which is under Israeli jurisdiction, contains the old city. Which means that the Palestinians have been isolated from an important aspect of their urban identity.
Building Sumud’s local partner has worked to reinvigorate residential and sacred spaces, but now they propose to renovate a traditional Mamluk building in the old city into a three-level civic and social center. It will be solar-powered and built with local, renewable materials, although great care will be taken to protect the vernacular architecture. And it will include a modular rooftop hub draped in patterned Hebronite fabric.
Within the framework of Sumud, which is Arabic for non-violent resistance, PLUG-In Hebron hopes to use architecture “as a vehicle to protect and literally build resilience” in order to restore human and social rights in Hebron.
“This will be the first of a series of hubs,” according to the project’s design brief, “beginning at points of intense interaction between military intervention and civilian life in the Old City. From these points, the hubs will catalyse site specific change and incrementally over time reclaim space for the civilian.”
The idea isn’t to create more conflict. The idea is to create a space that makes peaceful resolutions possible, while also establishing a central spot from where Palestinians can learn about recycling, waste management, urban agriculture and other important issues relevant to both the West Bank and beyond.
An 1800s Mamluk building that requires light renovation and conservation work will accommodate the first hub. The lower level will contain most of the civic activity, where people, regardless of their income, will be able to gather for workshops and urban planning events.
The second level will be an incubator for learning. Interns and other researchers, including architects, will be invited to spend their time occupying their minds with useful new information that will help to restore Hebron’s social fabric.
And perhaps the most exciting aspect of the project is a lightweight rooftop hub that will be built out of locally-sourced timber and draped in a patterned Hebronite fabric created by Palestinian artisans. This space will be used as an amphitheater that overlooks both the city and surrounding hills.
The whole solar-powered building will pivot on a strong culture of reuse and sensible waste management, which is crucial to any kind of urban regeneration anywhere in the Middle East, and positive social reconstruction.
PLUG-In Hebron is a creative, open-source and progressive architecture project with a strong but peaceful human rights ethos, which is exactly the kind of intervention this contentious area demands.