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AAU Anastas designs gift shop as a stone vault extension of Crusaders-built monastery in Jerusalem

AAU Anastas designs gift shop as a stone vault extension of Crusaders-built monastery in Jerusalem

AAU Anastas, Stone, Palestine
Photography by Mikaela Burstow

Bethlehem-based design and architecture studio AAU Anastas has added a flat stone-vaulted extension to a 12th century monastery built by the  Crusaders in Jerusalem, which now houses a gift shop.

The St Mary of the Resurrection Abbey in Abu Ghosh is one of Jerusalem’s most valuable examples of Crusaders’ architecture, set on one of the five French domains. It showcases a combination of architectural styles brought from abroad combined with locally-inspired elements.

AAU Anastas' newly built extension to the monastery shop pays homage to the stone techniques that were once inherent to the monastery’s architectural history, all while focusing on novel ways of designing and showcasing the craft of local stonemasonry. 

"The design for the new shop is based on an innovative construction principle, literally weaving stones together to achieve the first reinforced flat stone vault of such a scale," the architects explained.

"The techniques used for the construction rely on novel design and simulation techniques of the structure’s structural behaviour, as well as on fabrication and mounting methods allowing for the assembly of precise topological interlocking." 

The columns of the new shop are made out of massive pieces of stone, while the grid-like ceiling is a flat stone vault composed of 169 interlocking voussoirs. This was inspired by a system invented by French engineer Joseph Abeille, who patented the system that allows the building of flat vaults in 1699.

The new shop is organised in a square plan, entombed in three facades, with the fourth connecting to the existing gift shop on one facade. 

The shop's plan is organised around a sequence of columns on its three facades, with the fourth facade connecting to the existing gift. The massive stone columns create shelving spaces, as well as acting as structural elements of the massive stone vault.

This project is another example of the architects' exploration of “stone stereotomy” as part of their ongoing project, Stone Matters.

Previously the design-duo 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

AAU Anastas' multi-sensory While We Wait installation was also showcased during Dubai Design Week last year, created to instigate a sense of meditation and thought, using stone found in various parts of Palestine. 

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