An Art School Proposal in Downtown Amman

Greenwood Barton Architects x AAU Anastas

The MMAG Foundation offers space for the exhibition and production of art. Greenwood Barton Architects and AAU Anastas are appointed to develop a brief, a masterplan and provide initial designs for the foundation’s campus in Jabal Amman.

The proposed masterplan enhances the uniqueness and peculiarity of the architecture and site by working on tranversalities, proximities, and relations between interior and exterior. New interventions make the site accessible to all by providing an open infrastructure of varied spatial typologies that are specific but not elaborately defined.
In this way, it will respond to Charles Renfro’s proposition that “the art school must accept new methods of production without knowing them”.

The site of the foundation is on a hill between two streets. Buildings that were historically separate are connected by a patchwork of uneven terraces and earthy banks.

A new horizontal connection approximately halfway between the two streets, navigates changes in level from South East to North West, following a topographical logic which makes Villas Shams Al Dein, Abu Al Huda, Kawar and the Kawar office building accessible along the same transversal path.

© Greenwood Barton Architects

By removing Villa Abu Al Huda’s kitchen and returning the villa to its original form a new route is opened up which allows for degrees of accessibility that change depending on the time of day or night or how the site is used at any given time. Similarly, demolition of a late addition to the rear of Villa Kawar opens up access to a secluded garden and makes it possible to experience the full extent of the site.

© Greenwood Barton Architects
© AAU Anastas

New vertical structures are infrastructural in both feel and performance. They connect the new route to the higher and lower streets in place of Villa Shams Al Dein and the Kawar office building.

Both existing buildings have been looked carefully at and they were found to be of negligible value and in the case of Shams Al Dein, structurally unsound. They contribute little to the existing spatial typologies found in other buildings and provide many problem-solving opportunities.

The histories of these buildings, and particularly the roof and terrace of Shams Al Dein and the openness to the street of the existing shopfronts inform the design.

© AAU Anastas

Rough-hewn stones reclaimed from the demolition of the villa are set aside and used to construct two small, geometrically composed buildings beneath the former guard’s house, forming the administrative center of the Foundation.

The placement of these structures creates interstitial spaces and a sense of density that speak to and enhance spatial morphologies that exist elsewhere on the site.

© AAU Anastas

The relationship of interior and exterior space, and specifically the extension of public, exterior space into the interiors, inform the design of the proposed structures. In contrast to the closed, monolithic character of the existing buildings, new buildings will be open and transparent, offering new scales of space and enhancing the juxtapositions and unusual proximities already found on the site.

These contracts will not only be tectonic but could be experienced with all your senses and offer degrees of comfort; for example, when you enter Villa Kawar it will be dry and shielded from the wind but may also be colder than the other interiors.

© AAU Anastas

Both new and old buildings and exterior space provide a wide range of spatial typologies, functions, and experiences – from small, efficiently planned, inward-looking space to large, flexible, outward-looking space – solving practical needs while allowing for future interpretation and adaptation of use.

While the existing buildings root the foundation in the history of the city and relate it to the domestic scale of the neighborhood, the new buildings will speak to its significance beyond its urban setting.

Project Info:

Location: Amman, Jordan
Site area: 4540 m2
Built area: 6000 m2
Project status: Initial Design
Client: Mohammad and Mahera Abu Ghazaleh Foundation
Project team: Greenwood Barton Architects and AAU Anastas

About the Designers:

Greenwood Barton Architects :
an architectural design office located in Amman, Jordan. Our work is varied in scale and type and includes new buildings as well as conservation of historic buildings and interior design. Projects are characterized by specific criteria, including the geographical context and the needs of the client. We aim to make sense of these criteria to produce robust and memorable spaces where people feel comfortable.

AAU Anastas :
The understanding of the project as a process underpins our thinking and approach. Positioning reciprocity as a founding principle, we work directly with factories and artisans from inception, collaborating on solutions, and in the process, minimizing energy consumption between design and realization.
Emerging from a deep understanding of local know-how we work with makers to extrapolate artisanal know-how, subverting, adapting, and widening the end result to new uses by casting these into new forms.
We firmly believe that sustainability should not be at the cost of ethical compromises. Instead, research is the synonym of ambition for a more sustainable, more comfortable, and more interactive design.

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