_Band-i-Amir Visitor Center, Bamyan_

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image: AFIR Architects

Located in the spectacular Band-e Amir National Landscape Park in Bamyan Province (the first National Landscape Park in Afghanistan), this seemingly modest project for a Visitor Centre by Dutch Architect Anne Feenstra is an important project for the necessary sustainable reconstruction of Afghanistan after years of conflict. It not only serves the purpose of informing and welcoming visitors, it also empowers the local community. Feenstra fully embraces one of the most obvious of requirement, one very often forgotten in favour of iconic solutions, that local solutions be adopted to local differences.

Bamyan National Park, image: AFIR Architects

 “Architects should never forget who they build for”, says Feenstra. His practice, AFIR Architects, takes a broad approach to sustainability, integrating not only local materials and methods of construction, but also the knowledge of the locals. “In this way a lasting relationship is established, surviving long after the architect has left. The people, the children, the different communities, are the most valuable stakeholders in this process. They have to be part of the re-definition of the culture. They need to be involved and in this way ownership of the physical output is being created from the inside. Not via one guru master architect.”

The resulting structure, built by local people, with their local knowledge, with local materials, creating local employment and local ownership and the training of local craftsmen, celebrates sustainability at its most basic.

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Band-I Amir Visitor Centre, image: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

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Band-I Amir Visitor Centre, image: AFIR Architects

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Band-I Amir Visitor Centre interior, image: AFIR Architects

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Band-I Amir Visitor Centre Exterior Detail, image: AFIR Architects

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Construction in Progress, image: AFIR Architects

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Construction in Progress, image: AFIR Architects


Anne Feenstra was born in Holland in 1967. He studied architecture in Delft, and worked for OMA and Will Alsop before moving to Afghanistan. He set up his studio in Kabul in 2003 later opening a second office in Khulm in the north. He teaches both at the University of Kabul and the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi, where he also established Arch-I, a platform for architecture, research and debate.