Hebron Rehabilitation Committee: Architectural Preservation of the Old City of Hebron

                                                              

Hebron Rehabilitation Committee: Architectural Preservation of the Old City of Hebron

Building and Social Housing Foundation
Solution proposed by: 
Hebron Rehabilitation Committee
In a Nutshell: 
In order to revitalize the Old City of Hebron as a cultural and economic center, Hebron Rehabilitation Committee carries out projects in architectural preservation. These projects target all areas of the Old City from housing to historical buildings to basic infrastructure. In so doing, HRC aims to incentivize the return of inhabitants to the Old City by improving livelihood and economic activity in the area.
Where and When: 
HRC began its work in renovations following its establishment by Yassir Arafat in 1996, focusing their efforts on the Old City of Hebron in the Southern West Bank.
Challenges: 
Infrastructure and housing renovation is necessary to maintain the functionality and aesthetic of the Old City’s ancient architectural fabric. Many buildings, homes, and roads are in states of decay due to lack of maintenance. Consequently, living conditions are difficult, particularly as the area is also under Israeli control. Basic facilities like electricity, sewage and garbage disposal networks, and drinking water are worn or limited. Due to the area’s condition touristic activity is limited. Furthermore, under H2, the Old City is subject to Israeli-imposed restrictions on building and maintenance, making its preservation an even more difficult task. As a result, economic life, general living conditions, and touristic viability of the Old City are stilted.
Innovation: 
To combat these multiple issues HRC focalizes on rehabilitating areas in need of maintenance in coordination with both Palestinian and Israeli authorities. These quarters can then become residential areas and support the creation of jobs either directly or indirectly. These projects also aim to link the entrances to the Old City with the modern city and its infrastructure. Thus the overall impact from rehabilitation ranges from attracting tourism to creating jobs to improving infrastructure.
Concept: 
HRC’s work is based in architectural preservation theory that considers the historic buildings in the Old City as a cultural collective. Strategically, the solution focuses on restoring buildings for housing purposes in order to preserve heritage and identity while improving living conditions for residents. The aim of this is to conserve the Old City’s rich cultural character and help it flourish economically in order to support the livelihood of its inhabitants. This solution also helps protect the city from Israeli settler encroachment, damage to property, and attempts to Judaize historical architecture without consideration for original Arab and muslim elements. By focusing on rehabilitation, the committee manages to address a myriad of social and economic issues via preservation of one of the oldest and culturally rich areas in the world.
Description: 
Since its inception, the committee has conducted various projects in different areas of the Old City that aim first to rehabilitate historic buildings, and then repurpose them to support residential, economic, or touristic activity. The rehabilitation process was initiated with the creation of a descriptive database compiling information on various properties and their heritage. From this, relevant projects and programs covering the different sectors of the Old City were developed. HRC works with different national institutions, including the Municipal Council of Hebron and Palestine Polytechnic University. The master plan passes through three main management levels: the Steering Committee, the Executive Committee, and the Local Committee. Additionally, permission from the Israeli authorities is usually required to carry out a project and can sometimes lead to complications or work being blocked. Renovation activities include improving and maintaining facades, walls, doors, and windows, planting trees, removing blighted portions of buildings, tiling yards and paving roads. A project could also include rehabilitating or installing new infrastructure. HRC’s methodology for implementation aims to integrate projects as much as possible within the local community. Thus HRC employs local labourers and buys construction materials from local suppliers as much as possible. Usually, these projects are given to skilled contractors through a bidding process, who then have full control over their work. With regards to housing renovations, HRC processes citizens’ housing-related applications and coordinates with official authorities to provide free housing and facilities. The process aims both to preserve and repurpose existing historical areas and to provide all requirements for contemporary life.
Impacts: 
Prior to this project, 95% of the Old City’s original population had left as a result of high tension and dire living conditions. HRC was able to bring more than 70% of the population back. To incentivize their return, over 1,000 homes have been rehabilitated and water and electricity are provided for free. By renovating neighbourhoods with particular attention to cultural heritage, residential requirements, economic and touristic activity have both seen significant boosts. HRC has received various awards including the World Habitat Award for best housing project, the Martyr Yasser Arafat Award for Achievement, and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

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