Winner of the LEAF Award 2014 in the category of “Urban Design of the Year”, A Gateway to Petra is carved into sandstone of magnificent red hues, in cliffs soaring over 100 meters in height, is the pre-historic city of Petra and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. As Jordan's most valued touristic site, the client requires a gate that streamlines and organizes the movement of visitors into and out of Petra.
The journey through the Siq and the final reveal of the Treasury is considered a breathtaking experience and has withstood the test of time. In contrast, the Wadi Musa town at the entrance to the old city has experienced years of terrible urbanism and uncontrolled development sprawl. The lack of planning around the Wadi Musa area has resulted in a chaotic urban setting. The surrounding hotels, residences and tourist facilities are non-uniform in both scale and aesthetic. The allocated site for this gate contains an old hotel, a newly built visitor's center and a proposed museum, all of which are physically and visually disconnected. The site also contains haphazardly placed kiosks set up by locals as their main source of livelihood, selling souvenirs and refreshments to tourists. The challenge is to design within this chaotic setting of a Wadi that has lost its character.
The proposed is a gateway that delicately transfers the visitor from the dense urban setting of Wadi Musa to the serene journey into Petra. Not only does it introduce this required gate, but the solution also integrates various other components; the visitor's center, the existing old hotel and the proposed museum. It also embraces the current activities on site such as the kiosks into a coherent urban solution. The concept also looks to maintain the natural views at the main entrance area, characterized by scattered greenery, a descending Wadi and the high stone cliffs of the canyon. The aim here is to respect the scenery from the gateway area as it has been for thousands of years and to create a design solution that minimally intervenes or disrupts this natural topography.
As the Nabateans once did, the design appears to carve into the existing landscape to create walls of different heights, lengths and orientation. The walls are positioned to bring together the scattered elements on site creating proximity and harmony to the entrance area. These walls, visitor's center and the existing hotel become the boundaries for an outdoor architectural enclosure serving as a vibrant and interactive plaza. The plaza is a platform that looks onto the Wadi, a place where locals and visitors can gather and where visitors shop, rest and interact with the locals. The newly designed kiosks integrate within this plaza enhancing the local's daily businesses selling souvenirs, refreshments and local foods.
The design heightens one’s awareness of the past and present contexts while providing the necessary functions for a contextual architectural intervention. It seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings on such a culturally sensitive urban context.