The idea of building the Um al Nasser children's center "The Children’s Land" in the Gaza Strip started in 2011 as a response to a call from the local Bedouin community to the Vento di Terra NGO, asking for access to quality health and educational services for children and women of their village.
Difficult areas such as the Gaza Strip are characterized by a systematic lack of urban planning. The decision to build a school complex employing bioclimatic architecture criteria was driven by the need to use readily available and cheap local resources.
The building, co-designed by ARCò – Architecture & Cooperation group and MCA Mario Cucinella Architects studio, was built in few weeks, using the “earthbags” technique, a “do-it-yourself” construction technique that had been already used with success by the Jahalin Bedouin Community in West Bank.
The project involves the Um al Nasser’s Bedouin Community, located in the northern Gaza Strip.
These people, expelled from Ber Sheva in 1948, have a semi-nomadic history and they share several cultural traits with the Bedouins living in the West Bank. Um Al Nasser is situated close to the Eretz crossing, in a particularly tense area that was recently involved in the conflict. One of the project’s purposes is to restore and promote the identity linked to the "Tent society”: an ancient society in which women had a central role, as holders of essential knowledge for survival.
"The Children’s Land" is an example of excellence for the use of innovative teaching methods, effective in reducing problems related to difficult situations such as the conflicts.
The building is conceived in terms of environmental sustainability, using innovative technical solutions to reinterpret the local identity and culture. The architectural design is realized by a team of experts: the group ARCò – Architecture & Cooperation, which deals with sustainability and participation in architecture, and MCA - Mario Cucinella Architects, an international firm with an extensive experience in sustainable architecture projects.
The project aims to promote the local identity through the reinterpretation of the “Bedouin tent”: a temporary structure characterized by vertical elements that support a decorated cloth, usually made of sheep wool. Its structure is divided into two different spaces: a public one for the common activities and for welcoming the guests and a private space for the family daily life.
The Um al Nasser multipurpose structure reinterprets these traditional features with contemporary architectural elements. The tent is replaced by a ceiling, folding in on itself, that resembles the different angles of the cloths. The horizontal lines of Bedouin tissues are represented by wooden brise soleil that allow the control of sun radiation.
With regard to the environmental eco-compatibility, there are several details that make this building an "architectural model" for the Palestinian construction sector. Low cost and low tech solutions have been chosen because they are easy to explain and to be replicated in similar contexts by the local community. Designers were supported by experts that dealt with structural, energetic and water-recycling aspects. The use of sand and wood minimizes the employment of polluting materials that have a high environmental impact.