Martha Schwartz Partners wins landscape design for Massar discovery centre in Damascus
- Syria: Sunday, November 23 - 2008 at 11:18
- PRESS RELEASE
Martha Schwartz Partners Ltd has won an international design competition to provide the public realm and landscape design for Massar Children's Discovery Centre and public park in Damascus, Syria.
Based on the site of the old international fairground, the public realm acts as a 'culture corridor', connecting the public space of the Discovery Centre with nearby cultural venues. Lorraine Landels, Senior Principal at Martha Schwartz Partners, said: "This is a landmark project as the park and the discovery centre will be the focus for a new Syrian educational programme, and one that will help us develop our portfolio as we work in the unique cultural climate of Damascus".
"We wish to create a sense of belonging and community for Syrians," said Lorraine Landels, "Martha Schwartz Partners sees the involvement of Syrians and commitment to capacity building as essential. Because the plans will re-interpret many design elements and culture of the surrounding city, local skills and craftsmanship will be key to the development of the project. Not only is this a huge opportunity for Martha Schwartz Partners, but also for Damascus."
The Massar project's ambition is to create better educational opportunities for young people in a country where 40 per cent of the population is under the age of 14. The centre will comprise various scientific thematic exhibitions for children aged 5-15. The discovery centre - designed by Henning Larsen Architects - is located on a 170.000 m2 site - a river bed - in the heart of Damascus. It is located centrally in walking distance from Damascus' historic city centre with the Umayyad Mosque and university, national opera and national museum in close proximity.
Louis Becker, Design Director of Henning Larsen Architects, said: "The discovery centre's form is inspired by the unique Damascus rose. The shape provides shade and natural ventilation in the building. Its centre forms a large communal space. This is where the children will meet, share their knowledge and develop new ideas together. The idea of the project is to create a park which features a quilt of activities interwoven with the discovery centre. The visitors will be led through several intimate spatial experiences addressing all the senses. Water will be current theme - both as activity and as a visualisation of sustainable measures and educational media."
The design vision for the public realm is one in which traditional visual themes of Syrian culture are re-interpreted to give a sense of something both new and familiar. The Damascus rose, cultivated by the ancient Syrians and seen as a symbol of perfection and knowledge, informs the line of the entire design, but is most visible in the eastern section of the sight, where massive 'petals' unfold and create a series of 'rooms', in which children can play with educational toys.
Accessibility for children—the main users of the Discovery Centre—continues on the park side, where water collected in the park is stored beneath a terraced mound. When it reaches sufficient volume the water spills into a shallow cut, and creates a series of water events, creating exciting play environments for children.
Elsewhere, the previously rocky slope at the southern edge of the site is sculpted into a series of walled, garden terraces. These are inspired by Islamic garden design and feature cascading pools and canals, planted areas and orchards. Here, the network of water features channels the flow of existing banyas down the series of terraces.
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