UNESCO Afghan heritage contest sparks controversy

Architects claim UNESCO's choice of winner 'unfair and unprofessional'

Bamiyan, Afghanistan. File image.
Bamiyan, Afghanistan. File image.

One of the most popular design competitions in history is mired in controversy after a petition was launched against UNESCO’s “unfair and unprofessional” choice of winner in the choice a new cultural centre in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

The single-stage contest – open only to registered architects and multi-disciplinary teams – received 1,070 design submissions – including many from the GCC. An Argentinian team led by Carlos Nahuel Recabarren was chosen for the 26,000m² site – overlooking the enormous empty niches of two demolished statues of Buddha.

However, the decision over the winning entry has sparked controversy, with some claiming the entry ignores key facets of the competition design brief. An online petition has been launched demanding the organisers restart the “unethical” competition and select a new jury and winner.

Nick Roseboro of US-based Architensions – who set up the petition and is believed to have entered the competition – claims key requirements in the brief were “neglected and ignored” by the judges.

Roseboro said: “In response to the unfair and unprofessional decision of jury to select the winner and runner-ups in this competition, on 18 February 2015, we hereby officially complain, to the respectable organisers of this competition.

“We believe, it is unethical to call the professional architects from all over the world, to put their energy, time, money and give their free ideas; and in response to their effort [for the] jury [to] decide to declare projects for winner, which seem to neglect many points and criteria mentioned in brief.”

The petition claims the winning project omits some accessibility requirements, fails to demonstrate its relation to Afghan culture and appears “very costly and very disruptive of the environment.”

It states: “The winning proposal has no elaboration on the concept of architectural innovation as the brief was requesting. The design does not show any special connectivity between Afghan cultural backgrounds, the environment, the used materials, construction methods and the way it is designed.”

 

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