The architectural expression for the new performing arts centre has been inspired by the uniquely beautiful monument of Petra. As an artificial oasis and sanctuary the ancient city of Petra is an appropriate source of analogy for a performing arts centre that aspires to be an oasis and sanctuary for contemporary culture.
Petra is also a fantastic example of the wonderful interplay between architecture and nature. Contemporary architecture is striving to emulate nature and imbue architecture with the intricate complexity and elegance of natural forms. In Petra we admire the way the rose-colored mountain walls have been fissured, eroded, carved and polished to reveal the strata of sedimentation along the fluid lines of the fluvial erosions.
ZHA are applying the principle of fluid erosion and carving to the mass of the building for the performing arts centre. This principle of erosion is the sole means of articulating the public spaces in the building. Thus there is a very strong, legible relation between the exterior and interior public spaces. The interior public foyer space is a continuous, multi-level space that cuts through the building and connects the north and south side of the valley. The fact that the erosion is cutting through the building implies that the beautiful interior surfaces will be light-flooded and thus very visible from without. The eroded interior surface extends deep into the public plaza as a welcoming gesture drawing the public into the building. There can be no doubt that this inviting design will wash away the threshold anxiety that sometimes is felt in front of monumental cultural buildings.
While the erosion creates the public foyer spaces the remaining mass represents the performance spaces. The shape of the eroded space reveals the two main performance spaces as the figurative parts of the eroded mass. The big Concert Theater is exposed at the end of the public void. The Small Theater is exposed overhead at the front of the building where the public foyer space fuses with the public plaza.
These two recognizably shaped volumes that contain the primary event spaces are then encapsulated by the support functions to create the exterior cubic volume. However, this exterior volume is not a rigid box. The volume is given tension be letting it gently swell - like the entasis of a column - in response to the public void in the centre of the building. Another nuance is to be noticed with respect to the treatment of the ground-surface – both on the plaza and within the public foyer. The plaza ground outside receives the underpass coming from the GAM strip and thus creates an amphi-theatre-like valley. The surface of the plaza rises gently as it approaches the building. The foyer ground is thus slightly raised and dips again slightly in response to the Small Theatre. The ground is eroded again in front of the big Concert Theater to reveal and give access to this performance space creating another situation that might become a kind of amphi-theatre within the overall space.
Such quasi-topographic manipulations of the ground surface are very communicative. They help to structure the large public surface and facilitate orientation and overview, in particular if the space is filled with people. Thus this play with the ground plane goes hand in hand with the overall ambitions of the multi-level public void that allows the audience to participate in the unified public space on many levels. In particular the second, elevated foyer level that connects across to the south-side of the valley might become Aman’s favorite spot to relax and enjoy the city.
Project facts and credits:
Program: Concert theatre: 1600 seat, Small theatre: 400 seat, Educational Centre and Galleries
Client: The Greater Amman Municipality
Architecture: Zaha Hadid Architects
Design: Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher
Project Director: Charles Walker
Project Architect: Tariq Khayyat
Competition Team: Maria Araya, Melike Altinisik, Dominiki Dadatsi, Renata Dantas,Sylvia Georgiadou,Britta Knobel, Rashiq Muhamadali, Bence Pap, Eleni Pavlidou, Daniel Santos, Daniel Widrig, Sevil Yazici.
Structural Consultants Dar Al-Handasah, Beirut-Cairo
Mechanical & Environmental Consultants Dar Al-Handasah, Beirut-Cairo
Theatre & Acoustics consultant : Artec Consultants Inc, NY-USA
Façade Engineers : Ramboll, London
Lighting Consultants: OVI , New York