• Khan Younis

  • Saturday, June 29, 2024 at 1:01 PM
    Last Update : Tuesday, July 2, 2024 at 6:06 AM

Palestinian Architect Draws Up Design for His Demolished House, Dreams of Rebuilding Gaza

(AWP) - Sitting inside his tent in a camp for the displaced in al-Mawasi in Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, Palestinian architect Ahmed al-Astal daydreams of himself being part of a panel discussing the rebuilding efforts when the Israeli war ends.

Al-Astal, who was a Professor of Architect at the Islamic University of Gaza before the war, holds a pen and paper and begins drawing up a design model to reconstruct his house, which was demolished by one of the many continuous Israeli raids on the besieged strip since October 2023.

He is already thinking about the size of his new house and whether he would rebuild it from one or two units, as he believes that housing is just like food and clothing, all parts of the basic life necessities for any human being.

Al-Astal is convinced that first things come first, so he will begin by building what is necessary to provide a shelter for him, his wife and four children, away from the tents of the displaced.

“I lie in this tent at night and imagine that I am among those who will have a role in rebuilding Gaza, and I imagine myself sitting at this round table discussing how to begin. This conversation often comes to my mind. Where do we begin? So, I decided to start redesigning my [destroyed] house, which I will rebuild after the war, God willing,” al-Astal said.

His displacement ordeal began in December, when he was forced to flee al-Mahatta neighbourhood in the city of Khan Yunis for al-Mawasi, before ending up in a tent with whatever little belongings he managed to salvage from his demolished house.

He had studied engineering in the former Yugoslavia and obtained a master’s degree from the University of York in Britain and a doctorate from the University of Sheffield, before he later contributed to establishing the Department of Architecture at the Islamic University of Gaza.

“We, the Palestinian people, had our homeland taken from us, so we planted the homeland within us. I always say that architecture is a tool of resistance and knowledge as well,” he said while praising the steadfastness of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

“The truth is that no matter what happens to us, our faith in God must be great. Our faith is that we, as a Palestinian people, have been living for nearly 100 years in conflict on this land. No matter what happens, we must have faith, and this is what we are teaching to future generations,” he added.

Despite losing his house and his rich personal library and the harsh and tough conditions surrounding every single Gazan during the Israeli war on the strip, he still hangs on to the dream of a better future.

Al-Astal is already thinking about the starting point in reconstructing Gaza, based upon the European model for post-war rebuilding methods.

“If we want reconstruction, where do we start? Of course, international theories, especially in Europe, where they call them theories of post-war reconstruction, which say to start first by rehabilitating the infrastructure and then think about what is called nucleus housing, which begins with the basics, that is, building a room, a kitchen, and a bathroom, meaning we start with what is available. As you know that shelter, food and clothing are the basis of life, there must be shelter first,” he explained.

“Construction and reconstruction depend on a political decision. If the opportunity is right, we will build. Even if we can reuse the rubble, we will build from it. Even this rubble can be used in the construction process through recycling,” al-Astal added.

“I will build with wood, we will build with cinders, and we will build with the remaining bricks. We will build what shelters people temporarily until the time comes. The Palestinian, as you know, does not know despair,” the Palestinian architect concluded.