Architects Elias and Yousef Anastas open cultural platform in

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DUBAI: In Bethlehem, Palestine, this summer, a new brutalist-style building overlooking a residential area in the Karkafeh Valley was opened. Designed by AAU Anastas, an architectural and design practice led by Palestinian architects Elias and Yousef Anastas, the structure is called Wonder Cabinet, and it has been several years in the making.  

It was conceived as a “nonprofit and production-driven cultural space” that aims to bring together creatives from around the Middle East — and internationally — through art, design, craftsmanship, research, education and even the culinary arts. It is home to the brothers’ own architectural practice and offers the first physical home of Radio Alhara, the popular Bethlehem-based online radio station that launched in March 2020. There’s also a restaurant run by chefs in residence, a small store, a cinema, and a showroom for Local Industries, the architects’ product design studio. 

Architecturally, the building is a rough concrete grid with metal detailing by Local Industries. On its façade is a series of rotating aluminum letters spelling out its name.  

“At the core of the project, we were thinking, ‘How can we create our own economy?’” Elias tells Arab News. “How can we create a financial structure that would allow a nonprofit project to be self-sustainable in a very short time? We have a restaurant that’s run by chefs and residents who will come and produce their work in collaboration with other people that are part of the network, as well as a place for blacksmiths or people working with pottery who would be able to develop a cutlery range or even collaborate on the making of the food in the space. We have carpentry too, and quite a large production facility.” 

Elias says they will host a resident chef from Japan and a French sound artist in September. Later in the fall, they will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Local Industries. And in 2024, the space will stage an exhibition of paintings by Lebanese artist Hatem Iman.  

“Wonder Cabinet is also a reaction to Palestine,” added Elias. “We invite people to come and produce out of Palestine instead of just constantly looking at Palestine.” 

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