Inspiration for the King Abdullah II House of Culture and Art came from the ancient city of Petra – an oasis and sanctuary of great beauty, providing a perfect analogy for a performing arts centre that aspires to be an oasis and sanctuary for contemporary culture.
Petra also exemplifies the extraordinary interplay between architecture and nature – in particular, the way that the city’s rose-coloured stone walls have been fissured, carved and polished by fluvial erosion and sedimentation over the centuries. Contemporary architecture strives to emulate nature and learn from the intricate complexity and elegance of its forms. So, from Petra, we learned and reapplied the principles of fluid erosion.
Indeed, erosion provided the sole means of articulating all public spaces in and around the new performing arts centre, creating a strong, seamless relationship between ‘interior’ and ‘exterior’. The interior public foyer is a continuous multi-level channel cut right through the building from north to south, creating a space that is literally ‘light-flooded’ – a beacon and a lamp of welcome.
While erosion forms the public foyer, the remaining mass holds the performance spaces – a large concert theater and smaller auditorium – the former exposed at the end of the pubic foyer, the latter visible overhead at the front of the building where public foyer becomes public plaza.
Further subtle nuances are created by treating the structure’s exterior volume as a ‘fluid’ rather than rigid box – its volume gently swelling, echoing the ancient columns of Petra, its ground level surfaces sloping and rising between deeper erosions to create natural amphitheaters.
These quasi-topographic manipulations of ground surfaces are both evocative and communicative, helping to orientate visitors and encourage them to congregate in at all levels. In particular, at the second, elevated foyer level which provides wonderful views across Amman.