Following the completion of RIWAQ’s comprehensive architectural survey in (1994 – 2004) which resulted in the publication of RIWAQ’s Registry of Historic Buildings, it was revealed that almost 50% of the historic buildings in rural areas of the West Bank and Gaza are located in or around 50 villages. Hence it has become RIWAQ’s vision to focus on those 50 villages for the foreseeable future, working on rehabilitation projects to target improvement of services, infrastructure, and living conditions of the public and private surrounding spaces.
At a time when Palestine is facing setbacks in the political and economic spheres, RIWAQ’s 50 Villages endeavor hopes to make a qualitative addition on the regional scale. Empowering communities by offering means to improve their environment and living conditions implies responding to the urgent issues they face daily.
The 50 Villages project is a tool to reconstruct an alternative Palestinian map; a conceptual shift that moves away from a conventional restorative approach—that is, conservation and documentation of single buildings—into exploring the wider urban context while protecting its heritage. The project is embedded in a conscious approach to explore what could be done with limited resources, and to cultivate possibilities for change from within Palestinian historic fabrics. This process of re-reading the map is giving birth to new cooperative matrices and networks that are working together to stitch Palestine’s fragmented landscape.
Heritage architecture, in this sense, is no longer seen as a passive act rooted in romantic values as is common in many countries; rather, it is a dynamic form of enacting change. The concept and definition of heritage has gradually advanced, opening up possibilities for new understandings of urban spaces, buildings, and individuals. These possibilities embrace contemporary activities, meanings, and practices that one can draw from the past to shape the future.