Wadi Rum Excavated Sanctuaries

Architect: Rasem Kamal
Location: Wadi Rum, Jordan
Area: 180,000 sq.m
Year: 2015
Thesis Project, THE RICE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE
Thesis director: Carlos Jiménez

01_3D-Sunset View for The Excavated CourtyardsSunset View for The Excavated Courtyards © Rasem Kamal

This project represents the architectural product of a thesis that focuses on subtraction not addition, subtracting voids and spatial volumes according to users’ need of functions, circulation and natural light. These voids could be excavated in the natural ground in order to create a concealed and non-distracting architectural presence above ground, along with an unlimited flexibility to subtract underground. The motivation behind this subject in particular was based on a debate related to the relationship between external form and internal space. Lately, a great many of prominent architectural practices have been focusing on developing dynamic forms, new building materials, sophisticated details and tectonics as well, while only the minority of these contributes to their internal spaces. Consequently, this thesis aimed to flip the relationship between the explicit and implicit, by diminishing the power of external form along with exploiting all the previous efforts that were used for it to subtract spaces where we will live, experience and enjoy.

02_3D-General ViewGeneral view © Rasem Kamal

04_3D_Courtyard Entry RampCourtyard entry ramp © Rasem Kamal

09_General Site Map

General Site Map © Rasem Kamal (Click to enlarge)

11_Ants Colony NestAnts Colony Nest © Rasem Kamal

12_Site PlanSite plan © Rasem Kamal

PrintResponse to existing contour lines © Rasem Kamal

PrintExcavation grid and various circulation loops © Rasem Kamal

PrintThe overlapped program diagram © Rasem Kamal

Wadi Rum, or valley of the moon, is a vast empty desert in south of Jordan, surrounded by series of fascinating colorful mountains. The selection of this site in particular was for two key reasons; it is an ideal location to excavate natural ground with a high flexibility of horizontal expansion. Furthermore, this site needs a very minimal and sensitive intervention -since it was declared a world protected site by UNESCO in 2011- without adding a new structure above ground that might compete with the existing mountains and distract visitors visually.

Throughout natural and architectural history, there were various precedents ranging from the scale of ants’ colony nests to underground museums. Primarily, the first influence was ants ‘colony nests, where ants subtract their chambers in an organic layout according to needed volumes only, linking them with unexpected circulation routes. However, the challenge of thesis was to experiment excavation in more complex programs – (a train sub-station, an interpretive museum and a sanctuary hotel) as a response for Rum Valley needs; in order to exploit all the opportunities provided by building underground, unrestricted horizontal expansion along with a new definition for building slabs, walls, and maneuvering between spaces by a network of convenient ramps.

06_3D-View Inside One of The CourtyardsView inside one of the courtyards © Rasem Kamal

05_3D_View Inside One Circulation Tube_Museum SpineView inside one circulation tube museum spine © Rasem Kamal

07_3D-View for The Pool and Spa CourtydardView of the pool and spa courtyard © Rasem Kamal

08_3D_One of The Bedroom PrototypesOne of the bedroom prototypes © Rasem Kamal

PrintSectional isometric for the train sub-terminal © Rasem Kamal

The design concept was based on excavating a series of fragmented yet interconnected courtyards which remained exposed to the sky despite being under the sand‘s datum line. These courtyards control all the hotel rooms and museum halls around them in addition to the underground circulation network of ramps and the service loop, but with variations in volumetric experience and lighting quality in each one, because every courtyard was subtracted according to its surrounding functions, circulation’s requirements with distances being set according to a network of convenient ramps, topography, orientations towards site views and intensity of natural light.

PrintProgrammatic Slicing © Rasem Kamal

PrintSlicing strategy © Rasem Kamal

PrintLongitudinal section – Train substation © Rasem Kamal

PrintManipulated longitudinal section – Hotel and museum © Rasem Kamal

PrintFloor plan – Service loop © Rasem Kamal

PrintFloor plan © Rasem Kamal

PrintFloor plan © Rasem Kamal

PrintFloor plan © Rasem Kamal

As a design strategy, and because of the fact that this project could not be narrated by conventional longitudinal or cross sections, the whole underground structure were sliced into a consequence of repetitive sections in order to study relationship of the hotel with the museum’s functions, the courtyards with their surrounding chambers, the courtyards with the circulation or service network, and finally the relationship of all the previous elements with the changing datum line of sand.

These “Excavated Sanctuaries” announce themselves from their interior not exterior, in other words, this is a new redefinition of the modernists’ phrase “form follows function” into “subtraction follows function”.

SONY DSCPhysical model © Rasem Kamal

SONY DSCPhysical model © Rasem Kamal

SONY DSCPhysical model © Rasem Kamal

SONY DSCPhysical model © Rasem Kamal

physical modelPhysical model © Rasem Kamal

SONY DSCPhysical model © Rasem Kamal

SONY DSCPhysical model © Rasem Kamal

SONY DSCPhysical model © Rasem Kamal

PrintCirculation tubes © Rasem Kamal

PrintBedrooms prototypes © Rasem Kamal

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3D Perspectives: Rasem Kamal – PIXEL 3D

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