Children museum: A project that will change the face of Jordanian architecture

Jordan Children Museum

The Jordan Children Museum, is nearing completion in Al Hussein parks. This is by far the largest realized project for the Jordanian architectural firm Faris and Faris, who are collaborating with another Jordanian firm, Tahhan and Bushnaq on the interior work.

[see more photos here]

This project is an amazingly promising piece of architecture (I have only seen the building from the outside so far, so it’s too early even for first impressions, but I’m going out on a limb :) . From a formal perspective it breaks the mould of what we’re used to see in Amman. Jordanian architecture, known for it’s relative experimentation in the late 80’s (think Rasem Badran, Jaafar Toukan and Bilal Hammad and others) has entered a state of rigidity when the regional/traditional direction became too comfortable. In recent years we’ve see a resurgence of experimentation with new forms and the shedding of regional/islamic and largely stone based architecture of the 90’s.

I think that Jordanian architect Khaled Nahhas gave the local architectural community a bit of a shock a few years ago with his Blue Fig building. Then, a vetran like Bilal Hamad went back to his more modernist and experimental approach with his Jordan Kuwait Bank building (essentially a facade development) which mixed glass and steel with a rough stone base and also utilized a dynamic tent structure. Even a staunch defender of identity and ‘sense of place’ like Rasem Badran has been charting a new course. Gone are the segmental arches and other traditionalist references from his firm’s (Dar Al Omran) National Bank of Kuwait building in Shmeisani.

Now, we are seeing the new, modernist leaning, Jordanian architecture arriving in even bigger way. The Children Museum will be a landmark of that trend. While it still has some elements of stone, the structure is dominated by concrete, glass and metal cladded facades. The formal composition is very dynamic, if not deconstructionist. Just look at those ‘toothpick columns’, which sometimes serve a structural and sometimes a decorative purpose. The wavy metal canopy echoes Bernard Tschumi’s Park de la Villette project.

Random rectangular openings in fair-face concrete walls remind one of Koolhaas. The metal filled random linear ‘cuts’ in the stone walls remind me of Daniel Liebeskind.

I see no hint of the obsession with ‘identity’ which dominated the Jordanian, regional and global architectural discourse of the 80’s and 90’s. This building is global in nature. It is a reflect of the globalized aspirations of a new Amman.

Are we seeing shadows of Dubai? Will critics lament the loss of ‘identity’? Maybe. But I think that the work of good Jordanian architects like Faris and Faris will always carry a connection to its place. Dubai definitely is a factor when talking about Arab architecture. It’s brash modernity and daring (sometimes naiv or even stupid) showy/themed image, couple with Dubai’s crazy growth and success, are irresistible to many building owners, investors, architects and even ordinary people.

But I’ve seen Dubai’s Children Museum. Amman seems much, much more promising, architecturally.

Architects like Ammar Khammash and Sahel Hiyari are also part of the new face of architecture in Jordan. Their work perhaps reflects its locality more than the what we’re seeing in the Children museum or Nahhas’ Urban Plaza (nearing completion in Mecca Street). But one thing is sure: exciting times are back for Jordan’s architecture.

In the coming year or two, we will see the work of global architectural star Norman Foster being erected in Amman (The Living Wall on Wadi Saqra Street and a tower in Abdali). This will be another shock to the architectural scene. We might indeed have an interesting ride ahead.

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7 Responses to “Children museum: A project that will change the face of Jordanian architecture”

  1. Qwaider Planet Says:

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  2. Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Jordan: Children museum Says:

    [...] Now, we are seeing the new, modernist leaning, Jordanian architecture arriving in even bigger way. The Children Museum will be a landmark of that trend. While it still has some elements of stone, the structure is dominated by concrete, glass and metal cladded facades. The formal composition is very dynamic, if not deconstructionist, Ahmad Humeid said. Haitham Sabbah [...]

  3. salam Says:

    I share your thoughts on this Ahmad.I am finding it thrilling that such diverse buildings are coming up in Amman,though I wouldn’t go as far as thinking of all as trend setters.As much as I love the playful,intriguing masses that make up the chilredn’s museum,Ican’t ignore the fact that they are there to stress the function of this specific project,and don’t expect to be seeing this copied in more projects,at least I hope not or else we’d fall into this early ninty trend where post modernity turned into such a cheap looking fashion,remember those days?Banks and ice cream shops had the same elements and colors..but again..the presence of such a project,and especially this close to the beautiful Daboug mosque is should see the view from my kitchen:)

  4. Saad Darwazeh Says:

    Modern architecture creates amazing modern spaces, walls, lights and wonderfull to look at and experience. I am more concerned and interested in the “content” though. I wonder how and what will be inside this children museum, and more importantly how it will be managed. Will it for example stress our culture, identity, language, music and heritage or will we have imported ‘items’ on display? It is too early to sound pessimistic but stones & concrete alone never make … how can I say it ?

  5. Bassam Says:

    The lack of change in Amman and the continuously copied style has created an eagerness for something new. A New Architecture that can the evolution process in the city. This eagerness for a change should not let us accept whatever. The Children’s Museum building is a “whatever”, or as I would like to say it “wa’eva”.
    Like you said in your original post, it is an attempt to collect some well known styles. May be because of that, I find the composition formally weak. It is Praying for recognition and monumentality that is achieved in a negative way. What is done in this project feels very artificially put together.
    On the other hand, I find Nahhas’ projects very mature. I have seen already BlueFig but not the Urban Plaza. I might not get the chance to see it though. I would love to see Nahhas’ Urban Plaza. Would you be kind to post some photos of it?

  6. Aya Says:

    Since Mr. Saad questioned the ‘content’ of this museum, i’ve been inside and it was impressive, it hasn’t opened yet though, so i’m short on information about the managing of such a museum.

    The Children’s Museum will encourage curiosity, creativity, discovery and self-expression. Its innovative, interactive exhibits will invite hands-on participation, enticing children to explore and experience their environment and the world beyond. Unlike traditional museums, where objects are viewed from behind glass cases or velvet ropes, the children’s museum will be a place where learning is brought to life. The museum will enhance children’s appreciation of their national identity by exposing them to the diverse elements of the Jordanian environment: Flora and fauna, geology, archaeology, history and culture.

    Children will be encouraged to learn by using a multi-sensory approach that also encourages parent/child interaction. The museum seeks to be accessible to the community at large and expose children from all backgrounds, and of different abilities, to a stimulating and fun educational environment.

    The exhibits will be organized under three main themes: Humankind, the natural world and technology, with multiple sub-themes such as mechanics, robotics, communications, creativity, the human body, animals and plants, astronomy, earth and geology.

  7. samia Says:

    am doing my thesis on a childrens cultural centre, was wondering that where could i find the drawings for this project?
    its emazing!

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