This project aims to regenerate the old centre of Birzeit, a university town north of Ramallah, through analysing, mapping and designing careful urban and architectural interventions. It is part of a broader strategy devised by Riwaq: Centre for Architectural Conservation, the leading Palestinian NGO in the field of cultural heritage, which aims to regenerate 50 historic towns and villages that together contain half of the West Bank's surviving built heritage. The regeneration of the historic centre of Birzeit, by Palestine Regeneration Team (PART), represents the pilot scheme for Riwaq's 50 Villages vision.
Through responsive design interventions, the Birzeit regeneration project demonstrates the crucial link that exists between built heritage and socio-economic regeneration, while dynamically addressing complex issues of cultural identity. PART's work understands that the conservation of cultural heritage can be a critical act that embodies a strategy for social change.
The Birzeit project treats the existing cultural context – with all of its unseen social networks and habits – as the single most vital resource for designing sustainable communities. Many invisible and informal social and management networks already exist, and PART, in close partnership with Riwaq, was able to make use of these. Key contributors to the project were the Birzeit Municipal Council, local Palestinian community organizations such as the Rozana Association and UN-Habitat. PART also convened ThinkNet, a specially selected team of architects, economists, urban planners, sociologists, anthropologists, environmentalists and conservationists, who advised on specific issues of urban regeneration and cultural identity.
The Birzeit regeneration project, with Riwaq's name as the lead organisation, was one of five winners of the 2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.