A gateway to Petra- Wadi Musa, Jordan

“The Red Rose City, half as old as time”

The city of Petra is the foremost historical and archeological city in the region, Carved out of the red-rose rocks, as the capital of Nabataea’s. It attracts countless tourists every year, being one of the 7 wonders of the world. ‘Wadi Musa’ City which leads to Petra city, has been neglected and mistreated for years, Therefore the client is looking to redesign the area and create a welcoming experience for the visitor by adding a controlled gateway to protect this world heritage site (Petra), meeting the demands of tourism.

The proposed design aims to revitalize the area and ‘Wadi Musa’. The museum was designed to give a clear projection of the history in this area. As for the plaza, the main goal was to bridge the gap between tourists and locals, by creating an inviting welcoming place to gather. Also a prominent gateway was added to give the visitors a clear point to start the journey of the wondrous siq’ leading to the Treasury.

The scheme responsively adapts to the site and context, it brings into being a space where the visitor is transferred from a dense and occupied urban blocks, to a tranquil serene journey of the siq’ “from something to nothing.” Conceptually, the context consists of several intertwining elements of nature; the green areas, the Wadi and the rocks, all dance beautifully in an accidental rhythm, that brings live. The strips of greenery shape its way between the urban fabric into the stream below. Flowing continually and ending with the stream of rocks of the “Siq”. The design intends to continue this contextual, natural rhythm rather than disrupt it with an abrupt structure that interferes with the natural flow.
As an introduction to the scenic journey of Petra, this project seamlessly blends within the desert landscape. By carving into the rocks, new walls are revealed, walls of different, lengths, heights and directions. All Unraveled by the chiseling of the existing natural slope, the series of emerging walls do not compete with nature but merge silently within the desert setting of Petra. They also act as retaining walls on site, but stand rigidly as a start of a choreographed journey into the Siq’ .

These walls are carefully orchestrated to unveil the surrounding nature while introducing an identified experience of arrival which increases the sense of mystery, anticipation, excitement. They are elegant but functional, cracked but rigid, long and directional, gradually progressing in height as a sense of permanent transition from landscape to a defined outdoor enclosure.
Located within the landscape the museum illuminates the river at night through its random openings creating a feeling of what is expected later in the experience. As the visitor slopes down the landscaped path, a powerful and sculptural wall emerges from the natural topography and ascends towards the end thus filtering the visitors from the plaza to the start of the journey.

A gateway guardhouse sits lightly on the sloping landscape opposite a barely seen, elegantly positioned turnstiles structure for entry. Slits cut through the 40m long wall and are carefully positioned to hide and expose the surrounding features while allowing the visitor an occasional glimpse into the wadi. The stone used in the design merge seamlessly with the surrounding natural textures and colors. The resulting design appears to be a stone, cracked and removed from the existing land, a seamless composition with its surrounding while facilitating the flow of movement towards the ancient archeological ruins.

The minimal yet powerful gestures of the architecture, serve to create harmony and balance while framing and amplifying the significant surrounding environment. The design, dramatically situated, finally heightens rather than distorts one’s awareness of the context while providing the necessary function for such a minimal architectural intervention.


maisam architects & engineers
Amman, Jordan

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