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Awards 2002-2004

Sandbag Shelter Prototypes, various locationsOld City of Jerusalem Revitalization Programme (OCJRP), Old City, Jerusalem

Welfare Association, Switzerland

OCJRP Technical Office, Jerusalem

Ongoing since 1996


Jerusalem has an extraordinarily long and varied history, but the urban fabric of the old city is threatened by overcrowding, lack of maintenance and poor services. The Old City of Jerusalem Revitalization Programme aims to rehabilitate the city, to preserve its heritage and to create a better quality of life for its inhabitants. It is a comprehensive project aimed at every aspect of human life, with several components, including restoration, training, education and raising public awareness. All these components are tied together to achieve an integrated and enduring revitalization. The body of completed works to date includes over 160 projects, all undertaken in close collaboration with local institutions, international organizations and funding agencies.

The urban fabric has suffered from neglect, inappropriate use and inadequate services, with many people living in dilapidated buildings in unsanitary conditions. To address these issues the Welfare Association - a Geneva-based non-governmental organization established in 1983 to support Palestinians in all development areas - set up a technical office in Jerusalem in 1995. The office is composed of professionals from different fields: architecture, engineering, planning, economics and history. Its main aim is to implement a comprehensive programme for the rehabilitation of the old city, comprising a number of complementary components: a revitalization plan; emergency restoration; total restoration; training in conservation; a community outreach programme; and an information centre.

The Old City Revitalization Plan forms the basis of the programme’s work. A broad survey was carried out to identify the buildings most in danger and make proposals for their rehabilitation. The aim is not the immediate restoration of a contiguous quarter but interventions throughout the old city. Many of the projects are houses - either single buildings of two or three storeys housing one or two families, or traditional residential complexes (hosh) of several units surrounding a courtyard and housing up to ten families. The programme also focuses on major public or religious buildings - mosques, churches, madrasas (schools) and hostels - some of which retain their original function, while others are adapted to a new use.

Buildings are selected either for emergency or total restoration. Emergency restoration is normally a quick and limited intervention to solve particularly urgent problems that pose immediate health or safety risks, such as structural instability or water leakage. The duration of the projects varies from about three months for a small house to many years for non-residential projects; work on buildings of historic and architectural value is carried out slowly and sensitively and decisions are made with great care. Dar al Aytam is one such example, and this historical orphanage, comprising five monumental buildings from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, including a soup kitchen and bakery established by the wife of Sultan Süleyman, is being upgraded incrementally as an educational institution.

The other areas of the programme complement the restoration work to ensure the sustainability of the improvements. Training for architects, engineers, contractors and craftspeople is provided through short courses, internships and fellowships to study abroad. A community outreach programme encourages public awareness and participation in the rehabilitation process and organizes publications, meetings, workshops and lectures for schools, religious organizations, residents and users. Further components of the programme are also proposed: an information centre and a data bank of conservation professionals and organizations, and the Jerusalem Institute for the Preservation of Architectural Heritage in Palestine.

By the end of 2003, eighty-two residential projects and twenty-six public and fifty-five commercial buildings had been restored through the programme, providing decent living conditions for residents, creating new spaces for the community and ensuring the preservation of the rich historic fabric of the old city.

Jury Citation
The programme has received an Award for its comprehensive approach towards sustaining the life of a community in its natural setting - a life threatened by the deterioration of its physical, social and economic conditions.

The project is successful in addressing several issues, including the restoration and rehabilitation of housing, as well as the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and monuments for new functions. The programme is notable for the training it provides in conservation for architects, engineers, contractors and craftspeople, and for the establishment of an information centre and a database for the old city, including documentation, surveys, research and studies. Finally, the project has created a community outreach programme to raise public awareness of the value of historic buildings and to encourage public participation in the process of rehabilitation and restoration.

This effort is conducted under severe constraints, restoring the old city as a living, vibrant and beautiful environment. The process is meticulously conducted by a team of professionals motivated by their love of the place and its people. This is a project about dignity and self-esteem.

Project Data

Project principals
Welfare Association, Switzerland: Hisham Qaddumi, Jordan, Chairman of the Technical Committee of the OCJRP; Ismael el Zabri, Jordan, Director General; Shadia Touqan, Jerusalem, Director of the OCJRP Technical Office.

Department of Islamic Waqf, Jerusalem; Division of Cultural Heritage, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, France.

Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Kuwait; Islamic Development Bank, Saudi Arabia; the Ford Foundation, US.

Project team
Ehab Zuheaka, Deputy Director; Khalid Halabi, Supervision Unit Manager; Amal Abu al Hawa, Samer Rantisi, Sahar Ghazal, Bashar Husseini, Faten Lafi, Bahi Abdel Hadi, Marah el Aloui and Nisreen Karsou, architects; Khaled Muhanna, Lana el Khushashi and Suhad al Bakri, civil engineers; Hazem Quneibi and Wafa Elder, administration; Arda Batarseh, information manager, Yousef Natche, architectural historian; Anita Vitullo, editor. (All based in Jerusalem.)

Instituto Veneto per i Beni Culturali, Italy, 2002-present; Riwaq Centre for Architectural Conservation, Ramallah: Suad al Amiri, Director, 1998-2000; Centre for Conservation and Preservation of Islamic Architectural Heritage, Egypt: Saleh Lamei Mostafa, Director 1997-98.

Project History
Commission: July 1994
Design: 1995-ongoing
Construction: 1995-ongoing
Occupation: Since 1996
Site area: 871,000 m2 Old City
Built area: 110 m2
Cost: US$ 12,382,000 (1996-2003)

Project Photography
Watch the slide show or click on one of the high resolution images to download it to your computer. If you require TIFF images of this project, please contact the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

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