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Sadness as Gaza model children's centre razed

A children’s centre in Gaza described as an ‘architectural model’ for Palestinian construction has been razed to the ground during the recent conflict in the region

The 2011 project, a collaboration between architecture cooperative ARCò, Mario Cucinella Architects (MCA) and the NGO Vento di Terra, was destroyed last month by an Israeli bombardment, according to a statement released by the NGO.

The statement reads: ‘Israeli tanks and infantry occupied the village of Um Al Nasser on the night of 17 July, forcing the entire community to leave their homes. The children’s centre housed a nursery with 130 children and a paediatric clinic.

‘In addition to the Early Childhood Centre, which represented a model of excellence in terms of bio-climatic architecture and methodology, the new canteen was demolished.’

Italian politician Laura Boldrini said on her Facebook page that it was ‘painful to think that everything has gone up in smoke’.

A spokesperson for ARCò said in a statement: ‘When we received the news of the destruction of the Um Al Nasser kindergarten, about 12 days ago, 400 Palestinians were killed, 2,500 injured and more than 80,000 were displaced people. 

‘Yesterday, we received the first pictures thanks to @Andrea e Magda and @Sobhi Nasser. ‘The school was completely destroyed by bulldozers. A grain of sand in a desert of destruction. Today there are more than 1,800 dead, 9,000 injured and more than 450,000 displaced people.

‘Many of them do not have a home anymore. They are not numbers, they are human beings.’

The architect’s official brochure for the project describes it as having ‘several details that make it an “architectural model” for Palestinian construction.’

Last week Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the International Union of Architects (UIA) to ‘send a clear message of support for justice in Palestine and Israel by suspending the Israeli Architect’s Association - a move which backed the RIBA’s own controversial resolution, tabled by past president Angela Brady, which also called for the suspension of the IAUA.

The Israeli Defence Force was unavailable for comment.

ARCo, Gaza school - demolished

ARCo, Gaza school - demolished

The architect’s view - Alessio Battistella of ARCò

Um Al Nasser is the first village from the North, one of the closest to the border. It was completely evacuated during the night [of 17 July] and the few thousands of inhabitants had to find shelter in the UN schools of the nearby village of Beit Lahia.

The day after, the Mayor of the village manage to came back to it just for few minutes - his car was shot - and he communicated us that the whole Child Center had been bulldozed as it was as well a community kitchen we built next to it - finished just few months ago - as they were as well several houses of the village, including his own one.

We asked through different journalists to the spokesperson of Israeli Army about the destruction of the school and he answered that he had not information about it and he would confirm it.

Until now we got no confirmation from them. But after two weeks, the Army withdrew from the village and the people of Um Al Nasser was allowed to come back, so we got these first images about the
destruction of the Child Center.

When the demolition took place, the Israeli offensive was active already for almost two weeks, the death toll had reached already more than 400 Palestinian victims, more than 2,500 injured, and more than
80,000 displaced, including the whole village of Um Al Nasser.

Today, two weeks after, we’re talking about almost 2,000 dead, 10,000 injured and a displaced population that last week reached 450,000 people, almost 30 per cent of the whole population of Gaza Strip, many of whom will not be able to come back home after the operation, because their homes are not there any more.

The number of public buildings or facilities destroyed or damaged is already uncountable.

Of course we’re very sad about the destruction of the school, which for us and for the people of Um Al Nasser had became a symbol, a symbol of hope for a better future, but unfortunately as we were pointing in our first communication two weeks ago, that’s just a grain of sand in the desert of destruction in which the whole Gaza Strip has become for the last month.

We are deeply concerned for the situation of the civil population of Gaza Strip right now, knowing as many people as we know there and having heard so many horrific stories from them in the last weeks.

And since it seems that the operation is still on, the landscape of destruction it will leave at its end in terms of human lives, injured, displaced, urban tissue erased… it’s still impossible to imagine. For those who will survive, the post-war remains unclear and certainly terrible.

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