King Abdullah II: House Of Culture & Art

by | 13. Aug 2012

Cultural | Feature

Image courtesy Zaha Hadid ArchitectsThe architectural expression for the new performing arts centre by Zaha Hadid Architects was inspired by the uniquely beautiful monument of Petra.

The principle of fluid erosion and carving to the mass of the building was applied 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 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.

Image courtesy Zaha Hadid ArchitectsThe Lobby

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.

/Zaha Hadid Architects

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.

Image courtesy Zaha Hadid ArchitectsMain Theater

Image courtesy Zaha Hadid ArchitectsThe Lobby
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.

The plaza ground outside receives the underpass coming from the GAM strip and thus creates an amphitheater-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 amphitheater within the overall space.


ARCHITECTTariq Khayyat