Birth of a utopia
Rawabi is the first city in the West Bank founded by and for the Palestinians. It lies nine kilometers from Ramallah and twenty from Jerusalem. Born from an idea of Palestinian entrepreneur Bashar al Masri, the city is the result of a private real-estate project. Once finished, it should host between 25,000 and 40,000 people. Built on a hill, the structure of the city consists in a circular pattern developing around a shopping mall, while recalling the architecture of Israeli colonies. The urban model distances itself from the traditional Palestinian lifestyle, and the project raised great controversy in the West Bank.
As we started following the project in 2009, Rawabi was just a 3-D animated film simulating life in the future city, with colorful renderings depicting happy Palestinians along imaginary roads. Similar to utopic ideal cities of the Renaissance, which strived to human and architectural perfection, the urban model of Rawabi seemed to embrace the requirements of good citizens as expected in the future Palestinian state. Over time, however, this project of an “ideal city” began to clash with the reality of the Israeli occupation: the construction works of Rawabi have been delayed for some years, and many potential buyers have withdrawn from investing in a new home.
At the moment Rawabi seems more like a ghost town than the paradise of the promised land. Birth of a utopia is a work in progress. The first part of this project will be completed in September 2018.