Bamiyan Cultural Centre

Procedure : OpenCategory : Professional
Region II - Eastern Europe and the Middle East | Afghanistan

UNESCO, with the collaboration of the Government of Afghanistan, organised an international open competition in 2014 for the design of the Bamiyan Cultural Centre.

The realisation of this project on one of the most prominent sites overlooking the Buddha Cliffs was made possible by the support of the Bamiyan Governor and Mayor, the Ministry of Information and Culture, the Ministry of Agriculture and the people of Bamiyan. This project is located near the UNESCO World Heritage property of Bamiyan, which has outstanding universal value.

The winning team was announced in February 2015. The work of Carlos Nahuel Recabarren and his fellow team members, Manuel Alberto Martinez Catalan and Franco Morero, was selected from 1,070 design proposals submitted from 117 countries.

The jury identified exceptional qualities in the winning entry: a well-conceived plan providing for all program elements as well as a separation of public exhibition spaces and spaces dedicated to research and educational activities: a very sensitive site strategy that produced an elegant entry sequence and minimal visual impact on the site. The building was integrated into a larger garden strategy. Brick construction on the interior as well as exterior spaces of the building created elegant passageways that could easily serve as informal or formal meeting spaces and additional informal gallery spaces. The jury also found the project appropriately scaled, ensuring that, with careful design development, it would be a very buildable project.

Bamiyan Cultural Centre’s design was created to foster national unity and cultural identity while encouraging heritage preservation and contributing to reconciliation, peace-building and economic development in Afghanistan. The design also evoked the physical and historical landscape of Bamiyan, bearing witness to the loss of a significant part of Central Asian heritage.

More about the centre

Keywords : Culture, Heritage

Theme and objectives

The competition sought to reinforce culture and history as the base of Afghan unity, while celebrating the cultural sensitivities of the diverse ethnic groups. The Bamiyan Cultural Centre is intended to be a place of reconciliation, of peace building and of economic development in Afghanistan. The Centre will be a space for exchanges of ideas and knowledge and a dynamic gathering place for communities to honour past traditions and to plan for the future.


The competition was open to registered architects and to multidisciplinary teams led by an architect.

Jury Members

  • Zahara Bereshna, Architect, Afghanistan
  • Young Joon Kim, Architect, Korea
  • Robert Knox, Curator, Canada/United Kingdom
  • Elizabeth O’Donnell, Architect, USA, Acting Dean of The Cooper Union
  • Ajmal Maiwandi, Architect, CEO of the Agha Khan Trust for Culture, Afghanistan
  • Jukka Jokilehto, Special Advisor to the Director-General of ICCROM, Member of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).
  • Cameron Sinclair, Architect, Executive Director, Jolie-Pitt Foundation, Co-Founder of Architecture for Humanity

To view a video of the jury meeting:


Winning Entry:

Carlos Nahuel Recabarren, Manuel Alberto Martinez Catalan and Franco Morero


  • Ahmet Balkan, Emre Bozatli, Turkey
  • Noel Dominguez, Agathe Culot, Anna Kampmann, Alexandre Ferron, France
  • Costas Nicolaou, Constantinos Marcou, New Zealand
  • Graham Baldwin, Alessandra Covini, The Netherlands



The winning design was awarded 25,000 USD and the four runner-ups each received 8,000 USD.


Bamiyan Exhibition Hall

Bamiyan Cultural Centre