Designed by A-001 Taller de Arquitectura and BNKR Arquitectura, their proposal for the new National Museum of Afghanistan turns to the Afghan people for their version of history. Through an eloquent architectural plan and a daring museographic concept, the integration of a new building into the site in Kabul offers a whole new reading of the Afghan History through its ethnic and archaeological treasures, intertwined with multiple multi-sensory strategies. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Afghanistan is a land where crossroads meet, where differences live face to face, where multiple cultures have established their home after being nomads for a long period of history. Many cultures have absorbed Afghanistan, many others have influences it. It is a country that longs for a National project capable of integrating all the different identities that conform it and will refuse any imposed discourse that tries to mask it with a flat perspective. Even its orography eloquently states that Afghanistan is a land of reliefs, with many levels that must be understood.
As an architectural project, it offers a solid, safe space for knowledge to be shared, but most of all, for knowledge to be born; the building, simultaneously, integrates itself into the general landscape –due to its comprehensive use of local materials and mimesis of the orographic patterns– and stands out in the Afghan landscape –due to its cutting edge design, strategic location and discoursive proposal. Set in a 47,725 square meter site, the new National Museum of Afghanistan is placed in a strategic place for high impact innovation. A metaphor of a mountain –as a distinguished place for obtaining knowledge and a resource for national protection–, the main building’s structure holds its ground as a monumental representation for Afghan history and its possible future.
From afar, the museum looks like an integral block of strength. But as one approaches it, two main passages traverse it: One is the political axis of Afghanistan, which points towards the Darul Aman Palace; another is the religious axis, which points towards Mecca and recognizes Muslim culture as an undeniable structural influence in Afghanistan, both historically and in the present. Both axis allude to the crossroads that have defined Afghan History, and to the passages dug by Afghans in their orographic territory. Every inch carved into the Museum’s major structure is a tribute to the Afghan People’s capacity to dig safe spaces to preserve what they are. Every cubic meter open to museographic displays within the museum’s as a metaphoric mountain, is also a celebration of the Afghan people’s bravery throughout history.
The new National Museum of Afghanistan positions itself as the consequence of the Afghan’s people persistence to mold their country into shape. The new NMA building contemplates a complex and effective back of house system, which will enable the museum to work seamlessly before the visitors’ eyes. It provides public exhibition and non-exhibition spaces designed to help bring the Afghan people together in a shared experience and a convivial environment.
People will feel safe thanks to all the security measures anticipated in this new project´s design: high security walls surrounding all the NMA’s site, multiple high to middle security, differentiated check points and a panoptical security system within the security wall that allow the vigilance and immediate intervention in any of the museum’s spaces, all of these measures ensure the visitors’, staff and collection’s safety within the NMA. All technical needs have been solved and translated into a sustainable resource management within the museum site; the technical rooms and administration offices, along with the curatorial, research and preservation teams will guarantee top quality dynamics and results as the museum future unfolds.
This is the place that will allow the Afghan people to preserve, collect, study and exhibit their historic wealth through the objects time has left behind. As designers of the new NMA project, we believe it is this museum’s obligation to guard, highlight and narrate Afghanistan’s history in a comprehensive, respectful and informed way, open to the discursive and expressive contribution of those who are the result of said history: the Afghan people.
The new NMA our team conceived, offers, not only an eloquent architectural proposal but a comprehensive, innovative museography, designed to embrace the actual museum’s object collection and present it in a clear, attractive and engaging disposition which combines multiple forms of static object display along with interactive and multimedia dynamics through which visitors can make the museum and its content, their own.
The new NMA’s positioning is translated into unprecedented museographic logic, tailored from the logic underlying an Afghan practice. Most demographic data describe the Afghan population as one that is mainly illiterate (most statistics coincide the percentage of the population who can read amounts to around 20-25% only). However, after a thorough examination of the Afghan culture throughout history, we could find one common activity that replicates the logic of text creation and could be considered a form of writing: carpet weaving.
The carpet weaving process involves the creation of textiles by intertwining fibers shaped as threads into a specific pattern. People from Afghanistan and other cultures have spent a lot of time and energy spent perfecting this craft. The carpets woven in Afghanistan depict different graphic patterns, depending on the carpet’s use. Some even present a narrative like composition. It can be said then that carpets are an expression of the Afghan imaginary: they concentrate symbols related to practices and, in some cases, represent characters, scenes or complete stories in a specific graphically narrative logic.
Architects: A-001 Taller de Arquitectura + BNKR Arquitectura
Location: Kabul, Afghanistan
Graphic Design: Sal Creativos
Cultural Strategy and Museography: Ma José López Romo
Interior Design: Ma Dolores Robles Martinez