including | Culture Ensemble: A third place for Ramallah

The new third place in Ramallah, Palestine “Cultural Ensemble” houses a library, culture cafe, makerspace and stage. This Franco-German cultural institution welcomes the locals with a rich cultural program and language courses. Freely accessible places where everyone can go ‘spontaneously’ are unfortunately still rare in Palestine. That makes this new third place in Ramallah extra meaningful.

The French-German Cultural Center in Ramallah is a partnership between the Goethe-Institut Palestinian Territories and the Institut français Jerusalem.

Cultivation of sociocultural role
The geopolitical conditions and challenges in Palestine lead to a limited private domain for its inhabitants. However, cultural institutions have taken the first steps to bridge this gap. Community spaces, such as the Third Square in Ramallah, are still rare in Palestinian territories, but highly sought after.

Now the renovated institute fulfills its socio-cultural role even more. The design arouses the audience’s curiosity to explore the center and its rich cultural program and allows for more engaged communication.

The design is a co-creation of includi (concept, workshop, design, art direction) and Ramallah-based Saed Obaid Architectural & Interior Design (final design, engineering) in collaboration with local agency Topaz interior (furniture and decoration).

“Our shared goal was to create a welcoming, safe and inspiring public space in Ramallah that feels like home and that enables multicultural experiences, events and meetings. A place for ‘time well spent’,” sums up Aat Vos, creative director at includi.

A collection of culture
The cultural ensemble’s new public space is located on the ground floor and on the first floor of the building. On the ground floor there is an informal, welcoming café, but also a multifunctional seminar room, which gives teaching a visible role in the public space. On the first floor, visitors will find the library, a makerspace, a children’s corner and a stage for low-threshold local cultural events, such as film nights, concerts, conferences, etc. There is also an office and a ‘cocoon’ that provides space for public but more personal meetings , such as information meetings for people interested in studying in France or Germany. The overall look is warm, inviting and fresh.

A warm base welcomes visitors with yellow on the walls, a brown ceiling for an extra cozy atmosphere and local references for a friendly and familiar feeling, such as side tables with colorful tiles, a ‘cocoon’ wallpaper with unmistakable Palestinian motifs, hand crocheted elements for the bar stools in the café and a large carpet in the children’s corner made by local craftsmen. Blue accents add a touch of freshness.

Above all, accessible
Hélène IJsselstijn, interior designer at includi looks back: “It was a challenge to find the right materials, chairs and upholstery. We had to deal with very long delivery times and limited stocks due to the pandemic. Thanks to the intensive cooperation with our local ‘building partners’ Saed Obaid and Topaz – who found the right interior elements with great care and attention – we were able to add a beautiful, local identity to this project, making the accessible and inclusive atmosphere a reality. Thanks to the visibility of visitors behind the project window, in workplaces with lighting above and through a variety of seating in the hall and cafe area. A long communal table on the ground floor invites you to take a seat and sets the tone at the entrance. Informality and ‘deinstitutionalisation’ are also translated into the signage, for example by hitting on signs saying ‘Please do not disturb us’.”

The public spaces within Kultur Ensemble form an authentic third place that, thanks to an inclusive interior concept, is more accessible to visit and will hopefully be experienced as a “home away from home” by an audience of all ages and backgrounds… A cultural center, where – in addition to everything there is to learn and experience – you will certainly enjoy living alone or with others.

Project credits
Client: Goethe-Institut Palestinian Territories
incl.: concept, workshop, design, art direction (team: Aat Vos, Hélène IJsselstijn, Eunice Ma, Jasper Poortvliet, Pepijn Vos)
Saed Obaid Architectural & Interior Design: Final Design, Engineering
Topaz interior: furniture and decoration
Photo: Marco Heyda

Leave a Comment