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Stone vaults by AAU Anastas to form creative centre in Palestine

Bethlehem-based architecture studio AAU Anastas has completed a prototype of a  free-standing stone vault in Jericho which will be later used for the construction of el-Atlal residency for artists and writers in the Palestinian city.

Photos by MikaelaBurstow.

The firm’s research arm Scales has completed the study in collaboration with Geometry-Structure Architecture (GSA) Research Laboratory, a research unit of the National Graduate School of Architecture Paris-Malaquais.

The project aims to shed light on the disappearing local techniques which are then combined with cutting-edge technology, in order to revive the use of stone as a structural material. According to the architects, the use of stone in Palestine is now mainly reserved for cladding.

The on-going research project looks at stereotomy- the process of cutting stone- as a construction tool for contemporary architecture. The process relies on using computational design and advanced fabrication techniques in order to present a modern stone construction as part of a local and global architectural language.

“Stonematters is built on an innovative construction principle allowing for unprecedented forms for such structures,” the architects explained. “The architectural innovation is born from structural morphology and stereotomy.”

The vault itself covers a surface of 60m2 and spans seven metres with a constant depth of 12cm.

The formwork of the vault is made out of blocks of polystyrene of variable heights, carved with the shape of each stone. When arranged together they form a continuous counter-form of the entire structure, which is made up of 300 mutually supported stone pieces that are each distinct from the other.


The final project, also designed by Anastas, will take the form of six cut-stone dunes, that will host spaces for work, creation and residence.

The dune-like shape of the final structure allows the architecture to be as open as possible, forming fluid transitions between indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as leaving room for an interior garden that functions as an orchard and acts as a relaxation place similar to that of  an oasis in the desert.

Stonematters is the first module of the residency and the first built vault as part of the research.

“The project represents as well a cultural challenge: it has been entirely built with available know-hows in a peripheral zone of the culturally marginal city of Jericho,” the architects said.

“Combined processes of several factories have been put together in order to use existing known techniques for new uses.”


An abundant material in Palestine, the use of stone for construction was first imposed by the Ottomans in order to unify the built environment. This law outlines the shift from a self-managed urbanism to an authority urbanism, the architects said.

Anastas were the curators of the Palestine pavilion at the 2016 Dubai Design Week as part of the Abwab imitative, where the architecture duo, focusing on the undervalued use of olive wood in Bethlehem.

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