Say goodbye to the ‘Factory of Smoke’. Say hello to Amman’s Opera House

Demolition of Amman's old cigarette factory

This would make a great anti-smoking campaign. “Sing and dance instead of sucking on that cigarette”.

The Tobacco Factory (or ‘Masna’ al-Dukhan’, Arabic: the Factory of Smoke), one of Amman’s old industrial landmarks is being demolished these days. In its place, the Amman municipality will build Darat King Abdullah II, a very ambitious project that will give Amman a major art and culture venue.

According to Architectural Lab magazine:

The building will be designed to be the center of various art activities and associations, including the Amman Symphony Orchestra, the National Institute of Music, the National Folklore Group and the Amman Municipality Group of Folk Art. The ‘Darat King Abdullah II’ will additionally provide facilities and room for concerts, dance and theatre performances for local and international groups.

An impressive architectural competition was held and two first prizes where awarded: one to the well know UK-based Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid and the other to Delugan Meissl Associates Architects (from Vienna). Both projects are extremely dramatic and bold would totally transform the Ras al Ain area. Ras Al Ain, for those who don’t know, means: the head of the water spring. It is where Amman little river used to flow from (yes Amman used to have a little river, which now flows under ‘Saqf Al Seil’ street, which translates into: the roof of the river).

I am sad to see the “Factory of Smoke” being demolished. I would have wished they could have found a way to re-use the building, which, despite its utter bulkiness, was somehow a modernist icon of an older Amman.

But its too late for such sentiments now.

I am also quite excited about the potential of an important architectural addition to Amman by an international architect.

The two winning architects have been asked to submit further work. A final decision on the winner will be made soon.

Check out the two winning project below. For all projects check out Architecture Lab’s article.

Zaha Hadid

Amman's opera house by Zaha Hadid

Delugan Meissl Associates Architectes

Amman Opera House elugan Meissl Associates

6 Responses to “Say goodbye to the ‘Factory of Smoke’. Say hello to Amman’s Opera House”

  1. Moey Says:

    both looks neat to be honest

  2. shalabieh Says:

    hmmm I too would have referred the preservation of the old and its reuse. Both designs seem to have no relationship with the surrounding and people that reside there. I wonder what they think about all this?

  3. ArabianMonkey Says:

    I’ve seen the Zaha Hadid proposal before and quite like it actually – I’m also a huge fan of her work. The AbuDhabi performing arts project blows me away. I would love to see the Zaha Hadid in Ras Al Ain :)

    I have no doubt that architecturally we will see something impressive, but will it function properly? Jordan lacks cultural curators in the real meaning – programmers who understand how to schedule a year of events and a plan forward for EVERYBODY. Culture, the arts, music are for everyone. This new Darat needs a bunch of people thinking and working on function and use integration as well as architectural plans and sexy looks.

    Shalabieh, I get what you mean. But it wont be the look, but rather function and perception that will marginalize the residents or not. If the neighborhood and the surrounding Jabals know, believe and use the functions of the planned Darat, then they will respect it and accept it. If they perceive it not for them, we’re stuffed with yet another cool structure, without a soul.

    Just across the street is the Hussein Cultural Center. I’ve used and worked events extensively in that building since the year it went up so I know it well and what it can offer. It houses everything, but functionally doesn’t use much. There is no curator who runs it and the surrounding neighborhoods do not realize what it offers/could offer, so perception-wise they believe it’s not for them. I’ve had many chats with people around the community of Ashrafiyeh and Nathif – both a roll down the hill to the HCC - no one I’ve spoken to in the last few years had ever been there. They don’t know about the schedule of events. They don’t know about the free screenings and activities offered. They believe its not for them. I always thought the Hussein Cultural Center was a great idea and a perfect location for everyone – but sadly there is no one to manage, program and promote it. They don’t utilize the building for what it was intended at all. A place like this should be buzzing all day, with a 365 day schedule, parts free for all and some for a fee depending. Today, as a cultural center it does not program anything I think, they just wait for someone to book it for an event, that’s all. I find it a very sad building really, where it should be the one building pumping energy and infusing a soul into that location, echoing into the surrounding Jabals and inviting people in. But it’s not. And that’s not because of the location, structure, nor the way it looks – it’s because of the lack of the right people to work it, that’s all.

  4. Ali Says:

    I agree , Didn’t they think about the area the opera house will be in ? , It’s TLO3 EL MESDAR and all these poor areas !! , this kind of architecture doesn’t suit the place , I don’t know , It’s a good and bad step in the same time.

  5. Ali Says:

    I love the idea of an Opera house, atleast now we gurantee they will not get shot in the streets of amman! And either design will be fine, but I do agree with Ali and Shalabieh if they ever noticed that all this cultural center is built in the poorest area of amman. Maybe we need a cultural tour to those neighborhoods, thanks to Shalabieh, she once took me their

  6. VIDEO: Zaha Hadid announced as winner to design new art and culture center in Amman - 360east | design, media, technology Says:

    [...] Read my July 2008 post on this project here. [...]

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