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Heneghan Peng's Palestinian Museum goes ahead despite Gaza conflict

The Irish practice’s competition-winning Palestinian Museum is on schedule to open in 2016 – despite escalating conflict in the region

Construction of the £11 million project north of Ramallah is going ahead amid attacks on Palestinians living in Gaza.

The roof slab is currently being poured and the concrete shell is expected to be complete in around two months, according to Roisin Heneghan.

The 13,500m2 museum in the West Bank is around 80 kilometres from the focus of fighting on the coast.

The conflict between Hamas and the Israeli military started on 8 July and has seen around 1,200 Palestinians and 55 Israelis killed, according to the BBC.

The majority of Palestinian deaths have been in Gaza although a number of deaths have been reported in the West Bank.

Project architect Conor Streenan heard rocket attacks while travelling through Tel Aviv in Israel to visit the site two weeks ago, but construction of the project remains ‘business as usual’, Heneghan explains.

Heneghan said despite the additional time needed to clear checkpoints when accessing the site, the fact people were still able to come to work showed ‘life goes on’.

She continued: ‘There are many worse things happening in the region than the [difficulties facing] our project which is a very small part.

‘When Conor visited he just needed to spend more time at checkpoints so it took longer to get around. It was also noticeably more tense.’

Museum director Jack Persekian told The Arts Newspaper the building – which started on site in April last year – is now expected to be finished in September 2015. A soft opening is planned for early 2016.

Commenting on the challenging situation for the builders, he explained: ‘The current conflict makes coming to the museum building fairly unattractive for everyone.’

He continued: ‘In Palestine we are constantly aware of the security issues, and we know all too well that in this situation everything is vulnerable. The impediments to movement around Palestine remain; for Palestinians, given the documents they carry and the places they live, this looks unlikely to change.’

The museum is billed as a ‘leading platform for non-partisan narratives about Palestinians’ and will follow the 10,000-year-old history of the region.

The Irish stars saw off competition from Edward Cullinan Architects as well as Danish practice Henning Larsen Architects, Canadians Moriyama & Teshima and Consolidated Consultants from Jordan to land the prize commission three years ago.

Backed by the London-based Welfare Association, the stone- and glass-clad building will occupy a four-hectare site next to Birzeit University overlooking the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

The 3,500m2 first phase will feature a gallery, amphitheatre, café, library and offices.

The 10,000m2 second phase – set to complete over the next 10 years – will deliver more gallery space along with an auditorium and additional classrooms.

 

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