Nearly 20 years after the second intifada, Nablus “has become devoid of its industry, trade, residents, and capital, and it has been destroyed as an urban center as a result of the policies of the Israeli occupation,” he said.
He added that the Palestinian National Authority’s urban planning was “not commensurate with the social, economic and political reality” either.
Kittana said his project centre conduct research on urban planning for Nablus and all Palestinian cities. The centre carries out social projects using “free from any politicised external or international support,” he said.
Kittana, who also has a master’s degree in architectural renovation and development from Britain’s Oxford Brookes University, said he chose Nablus for the Yalla Project because of the city’s size and the scale of destruction there. Many of its buildings were destroyed during the intifadas and about 60 percent of its residents have been displaced, he said.
In addition, the city’s urban planning has isolated it from the social and economic needs of its residents, he said.
The team is working on four projects: “Urban expansion in violation of the laws in Nablus”, “building codes in the pre-modern period and how to produce the old city in terms of urbanization”, “the water system in Nablus before the rule of the Romans” and “obstacles and opportunities for reconstruction in the old city of Nablus over five years.”
The project has included redesigning a café through traditional methods using local materials and skills, reviving an old house to receive foreign visitors and creating three other cafés.
The younger Kittana, Basel, said the project they aimed to rediscover the cultural identity of the city by restoring buildings and bringing brings them back to life.
The project is currently working on designing organic gardens on the rooftops of several old houses in Nablus. They are re-displaying the historic stone roofs of buildings that are nearly a thousand years old, and turning them into green spaces.
Taking the Experience to Other Cities