UNESCO Launches Design Competition for Bamiyan Cultural Centre in Afghanistan

UNESCO Launches Design Competition for Bamiyan Cultural Centre in Afghanistan

As Afghanistan begins its second decade of democratic governance after nearly 30 years of political instability, through the funding from the Republic of Korea, UNESCO has teamed up with the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, to build a Cultural Center close to the boundaries of the Bamiyan World Heritage property. 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.

“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,” states UNESCO.

The Bamiyan Cultural Centre is a one of a kind project because funding for cultural projects in conflict zones can be difficult to obtain as it is often considered an “unnecessary luxury.” This is in part because their results are usually not visible in the short-term. However, cultural rights are human rights and a sense of shared cultural attachment is essential for achieving sustainable peace. With this project, international and national entities are uniting around the idea that building a nation through cultivating culture is an important way for a conflict-free Afghanistan.

UNESCO has been given the most prominent site overlooking the Buddha Cliffs by the Ministry of Information and Culture and the Bamiyan Municipality to support this project.  This site is historical and now, through this design competition, people around the world will have the opportunity to make a contribution to this heritage of humanity. 

Learn more about the Cultural Center and how you can participate in the design competition, which launched on November 15, below.

Competition: UNESCO is administering an international design competition to select a winning design entry for the Bamiyan Cultural Centre. The international Design Competition for this project started November 15, 2014 and ends on January 22, 2015. It will draw submissions from a wide range of individual architects, engineers and students from around the world.

Organizers: UNESCO Afghanistan, in coordination with The Ministry of Information and Culture of Afghanistan.

Awards: One winning entry will be given 25,000.00 (USD) and four runner-ups 8,000.00 (USD)


  • Enrich community life through programs and cultural events such as festivals, films, drama, music, dance, etc., that reflect the culture of the region and use these forms of communication to disseminate information and to raise awareness on cultural heritage.
  • Provide a venue and organize a variety of cultural, educational and recreational programs for the public to learn and appreciate different facets of Afghanistan’s heritage, history and cultural context.
  • Foster and cultivate cultural exchange between different ethnic groups in Afghanistan in order to contribute meaningfully to the spirit of multi-culturalism.
  • Promote the creation, performance and appreciation of arts by coordinating arts advocacy.
  • Serve the community by establishing, maintaining and operating a unique facility and provide services that contribute to strengthening the community.
  • Serve democratic processes by providing a public space for civil society.


  • Site: 26,000 square meters approximately
  • Building gross area: 2,220 square meters 

Critical Principles of Design:

  •  Create an innovative design.
  •  Create a vital centre for the cultural community of Bamiyan allowing individuals to commune and share ideas.
  •  Integrate the Bamiyan Valley view into the building design and create a positive visual impact on the Cultural Landscape of the Bamiyan Valley.
  • Integrate an environmentally conscious design, which in the Bamiyan context should consider locally resourced materials, climate and efficiency.
  • Connect to the historical context of the World Heritage property.

Jury Members: 

  • Zahara Bereshna, Architect
  • Young Joon Kim, Architect
  • Robert Knox, Museum curator, former Keeper of the Asia Collection at the British Museum
  • Elizabeth O’Donnell, Architect, Acting Dean of The Cooper Union
  • Ajmal Maiwandi, Architect, CEO of Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Afghanistan
  • Jukka Jokilehto, Special Advisor to the Director-General of ICCROM, Member of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)
  • Cameron Sinclair, Executive Director, Jolie-Pitt Foundation, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity

For more information visit the competition website and check out the short video above.

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Cite: AD Sponsor. "UNESCO Launches Design Competition for Bamiyan Cultural Centre in Afghanistan" 08 Dec 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/568260/unesco-launches-design-competition-for-bamiyan-cultural-centre-in-afghanistan> ISSN 0719-8884

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