A 12th century crypt shop design is inspired by Jerusalem’s monastic architecture

A 12th century crypt shop design is inspired by Jerusalem’s monastic architecture

Palestinian architecture firm AAU Anastas, in collaboration with Laboratoire GSA ENSA Paris Malaquais, has completed the renovation and extension of a monastery shop in Jerusalem. Part of the 12th century St Mary of the Resurrection Abbey – one of Jerusalem’s most valuable examples of Crusaders’ architecture, the structure blends architectural elements that the Crusaders brought from abroad, alongside local elements that they found in-situ, plus the contemporary twist of AAU Anastas’ light-filled vision.

The young, well-decorated firm, founded in 2011 by architects Elias and Yousef Anastas, is ‘passionate about inserting local craft techniques’ to its work, a manifesto that lives and breathes in this project. Like most of the architecture of the monastery – including the church’s crypt – the soundness of the new structure relies on delicate stereotomy (the art and science of cutting three-dimensional solids into shapes). The columns of the new shop are made out of massive stone slabs, and the ceiling comprises 169 interlocking voussoirs (a tapered stone used to construct an arch). Using this innovative construction principle, which literally weaves stones together, AAU Anastas has created the first reinforced stone vault of its scale.

St Mary Monestary, Jerusalem

‘The extension of the shop – in such a heavy historical context – is above all an attempt to adapt existing construction principles to novel design and fabrication methods as well as a specific local stonemasonry know-how,’ the firm explains. ‘The flat stone vault echoes stone construction techniques, inherent to the monastery’s architectural history and to the crusader’s architecture in Palestine, in a contemporary way.’

Traditional craft techniques are topically celebrated inside the shop, too. As well as selling locally produced liquors (limoncello, liquor of walnut), the shop at St Mary of the Resurrection Abbey sells ceramic objects produced and hand-drawn by the monks and nuns, in the on-site ceramic production workshop and oven. §

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