King Abdullah II House of Culture & Art
by Zaha Hadid Architects


Zaha Hadid Architects have unveiled their design for a new performing arts centre in Amman, the capital of Jordan.

The design of the King Abdullah II House of Culture & Art derives from the carved stone buildings and eroded rock formations at Petra in Jordan.

See all our stories about Zaha Hadid in our special category.

Here's a press release from Zaha Hadid Architects followed by a design statement:

22 February, 2010 - At a ceremony in the Jordanian capital, His Excellency Omar Maani, the mayor of Amman, announced the new King Abdullah II House of Culture & Art by Zaha Hadid Architects - a performing arts and cultural centre that includes a 1600-seat concert theatre, 400-seat theatre, educational centre, rehearsal rooms, and galleries.

At the directives of His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein, the Greater Amman Municipality is creating a new venue for performing arts and culture in a prime location in the centre of Amman. Conceived as a place to rehearse, discuss, teach, study and perform, the King Abdullah II House of Culture & Art will be the premiere venue for theatre, music and dance performance and education in Jordan – a vital element in the cultural life of the city and country, bringing together all members of the community in the shared experience of art and music.

The architectural expression for the new performing arts centre has been inspired by the magnificent ancient city of Petra explains Zaha Hadid. “Petra is an astonishing example of the wonderful interplay between architecture and nature, as well as the intricate complexity and elegance of natural forms - the rose-colored mountain walls have been eroded, carved and polished to reveal the astonishing strata of sedimentation. We have applied these principles to articulate the public spaces within the centre, with eroded interior surfaces that extend into the public plaza in front of the building.”

Zaha Hadid Architects was awarded the project in June 2008 after an international competition that included Snøhetta (Norway), Atelier Christian de Portzamparc (France), Delugan Meissl (Austria), Henning Larsens Tegnestue (Denmark) and Kerry Hill Architects (Singapore). Mayor Maani announced today that the Greater Amman Municipality have now signed the contract with Zaha Hadid Architects to build the King Abdullah II House of Culture & Art.

Zaha Hadid Architects

King Abdullah II House of Culture & Art

Project Explanation

Architectural Concept

The architectural expression for the new performing arts centre has been inspired by the uniquely beautiful monument of Petra. As an artificial oasis and sanctuary the ancient city of Petra is an appropriate source of analogy for a performing arts centre that aspires to be an oasis and sanctuary for contemporary culture.

Petra is also a fantastic example of the wonderful interplay between architecture and nature. Contemporary architecture is striving to emulate nature and imbue architecture with the intricate complexity and elegance of natural forms. In Petra we admire the way the rose-colored mountain walls have been fissured, eroded, carved and polished to reveal the strata of sedimentation along the fluid lines of the fluvial erosions.

We are applying the principle of fluid erosion and carving to the mass of the building for the performing arts centre. This principle of erosion is the sole means of articulating the public spaces in the building. Thus there is a very strong, legible relation between the exterior and interior public spaces.

The interior public foyer space is a continuous, multi-level space that cuts through the building and connects the north and south side of the valley. The fact that the erosion is cutting through the building implies that the beautiful interior surfaces will be light-flooded and thus very visible from without.

The eroded interior surface extends deep into the public plaza as a welcoming gesture drawing the public into the building. There can be no doubt that this inviting design will wash away the threshold anxiety that sometimes is felt in front of monumental cultural buildings.

While the erosion creates the public foyer spaces the remaining mass represents the performance spaces. The shape of the eroded space reveals the two main performance spaces as the figurative parts of the eroded mass. The big Concert Theater is exposed at the end of the public void. The Small Theater is exposed overhead at the front of the building where the public foyer space fuses with the public plaza. These two recognizably shaped volumes that contain the primary event spaces are then encapsulated by the support functions to create the exterior cubic volume.

However, this exterior volume is not a rigid box. The volume is given tension be letting it gently swell - like the entasis of a column - in response to the public void in the centre of the building. Another nuance is to be noticed with respect to the treatment of the ground-surface – both on the plaza and within the public foyer.

The plaza ground outside receives the underpass coming from the GAM strip and thus creates an amphi-theatre-like valley. The surface of the plaza rises gently as it approaches the building. The foyer ground is thus slightly raised and dips again slightly in response to the Small Theatre. The ground is eroded again in front of the big Concert Theater to reveal and give access to this performance space creating another situation that might become a kind of amphi-theatre within the overall space.

Such quasi-topographic manipulations of the ground surface are very communicative. They help to structure the large public surface and facilitate orientation and overview, in particular if the space is filled with people. Thus this play with the ground plane goes hand in hand with the overall ambitions of the multi-level public void that allows the audience to participate in the unified public space on many levels. In particular the second, elevated foyer level that connects across to the south-side of the valley might become Aman’s favorite spot to relax and enjoy the city.

Posted on Tuesday February 23rd 2010 at 10:56 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • scruces

    Hate on ZAHA all you want
    I think she’s bad ass

  • silicon m

    Oh Zaha !

  • Bold design… but the bulging of exterior form does nor persuade me at all… The perspective of the hall is breathtaking (although wide lens cheating)

  • guisforyou

    welcome to the new typology of ATRIUM buildings, they are programatically attending…well…to the atrium. Wow!!! this can save the world.

  • christian

    Like the design but what’s it actually made of, polished concrete/stone?

    Petra, pehaps not, wind /water erosion yes.

  • Jordan


  • toon

    she’s fck G! i love it!

  • scarpa

    Her copycats are almost always disastrous – and she occasionally drops a stinker herself – but this project is exquisite.

  • Dan

    “derives from the carved stone buildings and eroded rock formations at Petra in Jordan”

    Oh really?

  • T Sandwhich

    It is interesting that the first comment is in anticipation of future criticism instead of specific qualities that are “bad ass”.

  • biboarchitect

    One of the finest architecture pieces Zaha designed!

  • Very Sexy Architecture

  • M C

    Hah! No one had mentioned anything about her!

  • chris

    Its good, but expected. Seems that none of the great one can surprise us anymore.

  • gabe

    liking it, looking more feasible to construct and more toned down formally than previous projects

  • Who hates Zaha!? I will poke their ass for you.

  • bebo

    first of all, the design is not contextual at all, as u see from the pix it is blocking the view, and interrupting the harmony of the site and the mountain, that holds very old houses of realy i dont think that they studied the site or the concept because petra is like 350 km away from amman.(and by the way the real buildings does not look like this at all in the matter of height).

  • rude

    reminds me of some UNS projects….

  • scruces

    Gee, how odd. Every other ZAHA post I’ve seen in the past has done nothing but chide her – I started to think Dezeen was comprised of a huge audience of ZAHA haters and anticipated the onslaught. Sadly (TS), I don’t feel the need for me to go into specifics regarding qualities of merits and such – for me, a simple yea or nay suffices. Rarely does all that poetic discourse do much for anyone other than an audience of architects trained to decode just gibberish. Just ask a random passerby about the contextual relevance of any project and its manifestation of some poetic construct or bloated concept underlying and defending design decisions. More often than not, it’s totally lost in translation (or construction to be precise) and rendered altogether imperceivable. Architecture’s true folly is inherent in this perpetuated practice. Determining whether it works or not however, which is perhaps the most relevant question, requires us to experience it first hand. Only when the damn thing is built will we know for sure.

  • Kong

    Finally something nice from the Hadid office. I Think the BLOCK like outer shape really helps making her design much more appealing again, after getting bored by all the maya exterior.

  • I Can Has Cheeseburger

    This is brilliant!! I envy her success but I guess she did pay her dues!! Well done!

    I would like her to design my HOUSE!

  • harry

    Does this project really need the justification of referring to Petra rock formations? Hadid, H&dM please please stop with those media oriented gimmicks!

  • Andreas

    I need drawings to be fully convinced, BUT FINALLY ZAHA! This is much more like it. Containing the craziness and seemingly pointless shapes and instead using them for carving and making space! Bravo!

  • bebo

    people this improvement is because she has only 100 million$…

  • z

    I really respect Zaha’s attitude and personal emotion to architecture. I hope this can be built and looks not bad than the computer rendering.

  • WillM

    lol. ah zaha… maybe someone will actually build this project.

  • We Have Reached Our Destination !
    Zaha & Her Inspiration.. Damm It !

  • NYC

    Brilliant visionary design. A masterpiece.

  • paul

    gosh.. it’s like de javu…

  • Hlllllllllllllll!

    Somebody stop her. Please?

    But honestly. I’m sure she has a lot of fun, and it must be pretty exciting to see a building like this. But is it really attractive?

  • Still very SHE, unless many other hall of fame architects. That speaks of her as an artist more than a great business woman.

  • laura skeeters

    Scarpa: nobody is perfect, but she is close as it gets!
    Superb! I have goosebumps.

  • Very Nice concept I love the contrast between Rectangular and Organic.

  • justin

    seriously. did any of you sycophants notice that the big glass wall opens onto a highway?

  • Ayham

    Organic shape sculptured into a box, impressive!
    PETRA! Oh Zaha..Please! I wish I didn’t read that bullshite.

  • Rudy

    Yes, it is like Hadid took a lesson from UN studio. Most of her previous designs are totally warped curvacious buildings whereas UN studio designs show contrasting geometric and organic volumes.

  • Jing

    Yes,it is good, but expected…

  • Sergio

    yet again, as always happens with Zaha, evryone’s jealous cause they didn’t think about this before.

  • Sean

    I don’t understand why many designers feel that doing something different is enough to constitute good design.

    Those who do, rely on “differnt” because they lack the ability to create beauty using simple proportion, execution, simplicity, materials etc..

    Just because this is something we might have seen before doesn’t mean its bad as long as it’s done well. Because doing it “well” is the hard part, and not just thinking of something no one has seen before!

  • your all building look like monumental sculpture this is most beautiful work.

  • mohammed

    I love this project from zaha, not because i'm from amman, but it's realy special and beautiful

  • MtoM_Arch

    Beautiful. Team ZHA nailed this one. The erosion as public space is an immediately successful analogy. All the more powerful for the simple (finally!) exterior form it's being carved out of. Good work!

  • deyan nady

    if you don't know what to do with your money call Zaha. She'll make her art with your money. I think her "sculptures" are very, very nice but too expensive and vith lack of functionality.

  • candy

    OK I am doing a thesis on the concept of the void as a physical abstract in massing. I really like this take by Zaha as well as her Opus in Dubai. Would anyone have information on the cost implications of such a project? Is it cheaper since there is a void or do the costs of the structural components override any savings in construction?

  • Johannes

    This Building is great. It shows the Landscape of Petra.