- Client: ATS Pro Terra Sancta
- Stone Vault Structural Design: AAU ANASTAS in collaboration with Laboratoire GSA - Paris Malaquais
- Structural Strenghtening Of Existing Structure: R-STRUCT
- Mechanical Engineer: Hamdi Banoura
- Electrical Engineer: Wael & Issam Zeit
- City: Bethlehem
- Country: Palestine
Text description provided by the architects. Located next to the Nativity square in Bethlehem, the Dar Al Majous project is a restoration of a historical residential building from the 18th century. The suggested architecture highlights the shift between domestic and public use of the building. As such, new passages are created, new perspectives on the old building appear, and a new covered vaulted space is built. The projected stairs link the four levels together by inhabiting the interior patio of the building. The vault completes the unfinished part of the building while revealing some of the richness of the interior vaulted spaces from the street. The structure of the vaulted space is made out of massive stone and leans on supports that are either newly built or in strategic positions with regard to the historical building.
The historic building of Dar Al Majous has a resolutely modern architecture because it relies on systems rather than forms. As such, it is more dynamic and potentially adaptable, transformable. The richness of its diversity is a result of the use of typological spaces. In that sense, it is a gem of ingenious flexibility. Generic spaces stand out because they are abstract, they can adapt or transform, and they can have any size. Understanding the extreme modernity of Palestinian cities’ architectural vocabulary helps better seize the scale of the city and the relevance of questioning its contemporariness. It leaves no room for static, romantic, folkloric reproductions of ancient architecture: it calls for an architecture that can adjust, change or reinvent itself in light of potential forthcoming new scenarios.
In that context, the project of Dar Al Majous focuses on the capacity of the existing building and its attributes to absorb functions that were not initially expected.
Domestic to public - Dar Al Majous is an enclosed, introverted angle building, built around a hosh, an open collective space, that could easily be qualified as a semi-public space. The hosh spreads in between the living spaces at each level and offers to each function a connection with a common area that is more or less porous to its immediate exterior entourage.
Dar Al Majous project celebrates the hosh typology as an essential component of the historical architecture of Bethlehem that leads the architectural shifting from a domestic to a public use. A new circulation system is inserted in the void of the architectural complex. The project relies on the capacity of the hosh typology and its relation with the other spaces around it to adapt to new uses. It is thought of as a system that is not only defined in the geometrical limits of the vertical void, but rather as an extension of the open spaces that spread in between the different closed spaces. The suggested project intersects domestic and public architecture in an attempt to absorb new uses and create an architecture of new perceptions.
Perception of space - The new rearrangement includes separate diagonal stairs, each serving as
an extension of the open spaces between the hosh and the closed spaces. The stairs penetrate beyond the vertical limits of the hosh, creating new perceptions of the actual architecture. The new stairs emphasizes the extension of the common spaces on a sculptural diagonal plane, shoving the perception of spaces and movement. It suggests new interpretations of the building’s architecture. The path along the stairs offers an unprecedented point of view of the original structure.
Stone Vault - The relation between void and mass in the architecture of the project evolves from the lower to the upper parts of the building. The ground floor is built with massive walls with well-defined rooms while the last floor is incomplete featuring unfinished arches. Inspired by the defragmentation of the building’s architecture, the proposal accompanies the increasing importance of void and in-between spaces by defining the entire rooftop space as an extension of the hosh overlooking the street. The vault’s geometry refers to the complex fan vaults found on the lower floors. The new structure follows the urban alignment of the building while subtly revealing in low angle point of view of its ribs and geometry. This new roof suggests an architecture of the interior that is usually unseen from the street and highlights the intersection of domestic and public architecture as the main vector for the transformation of the building.