International Union of Architects

Argentinian team led by Carlos Nahuel Recabarren is the winner of the international competition for the Bamiyan Cultural Centre in Afghanistan


cultural centre

Carlos Nahuel Recabarren, Manuel Alberto Martinez Catalan and Franco Morero are the winners of the international competition for the design of the Bamiyan Cultural Centre in Afghanistan. An international jury selected them from among 1070 projects submitted from 117 countries. The competition was launched in November 2014 with the support of the UIA, which was represented on the jury by the Korean architect Young Joon Kim.



The competition sought to reinforce culture and history as the base of Afghan unity, while celebrating the cultural sensitivities of the diverse ethnic groups. Afghan President H.E Ashraf Ghani endorsed the international architecture competition as a project selection procedure. He confirmed the choice of jury members and renewed his commitment to the protection of his nation’s cultural heritage.

The Bamiyan Cultural Centre, now currently under construction, is intended to be a place of reconciliation, of peace building and of economic development in Afghanistan. The Centre is intended to 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.  It will be no more than 22 000 M2 and must include spaces for exhibitions, live theatrical and musical events, research and classrooms.

According to Carlos Nahuel Recabarren, Manuel Alberto Martinez Catalan and Franco Morero, the winning project, entitled Descriptive Memory: The Eternal Presence of Absence “tries to create not an object-building but rather a meeting place,” inspired by “ancient local building traditions,” where communication and exchange will take place with minimal impact on the environment, merging totally into the landscape.

The jury acclaimed the exceptional qualities of the project from the Argentinian team: the distribution of space and the inclusion of all elements of the program, the subtle strategy of implementation resulting in an elegant entry sequence, the insertion of the building in a landscaped garden and the creation of interior spaces and passageways serving as informal meeting spaces.  The jury also selected the project for its appropriate scale and the feasibility of its construction.


Thanks to generous financial support from the Republic of Korea, UNESCO, in partnership with the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture proceeded immediately to the construction of the Centre, to be built near the Bamiyan archaeological remains, a World Heritage site. 





UNESCO in Kabul, Afghanistan in coordination with the Ministry of Information and Culture in Afghanistan and The Republic of Korea



The jury attributed four honourable mentions:

•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


Carlos Nahuel Recabarren, Manuel Alberto Martinez Catalan and Franco Morero, Argentina



The winning entry : 25,000 USD and 4 runner-ups 8,000 USD each



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