Architecture, In Extremes: A Spa in Wadi Rum, Jordan

The project is a Spa Resort located in Wadi Rum, which is one of the most important natural history sites in Jordan. Wadi Rum is large valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock of the southern desert region. The valley covers acres of unspoiled landscape consisting of red sand dunes, rock formations and mountains that reach up to 1800 meters above sea level. The zone is a protected national park and is one of Jordan\’s most prominent tourist destinations.The site for the project is located on the periphery of the park with an area of two square kilometers. It affords spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the characteristics of the site itself are an extension to that of the park. The program is a twenty-room resort that is built around Spa facilities. The site presents many challenges in terms of its climatic geologic and topographic properties. Its seismic activity, extreme temperature changes, sand movement and rugged terrain make it an extremely difficult environment to navigate and inhabit. The visual character of the site is powerful and at times hostile, however, it is a delicate and fragile landscape that could and easily disturbed. It could be described as a complete and closed visual structure, which outlines and singles out any foreign element present within it. Therefore any human intervention in that zone appears to be radically more apparent and visible than other contexts. This studio will focus on defining alternative design strategies drawn from both the extreme nature of the site itself and the substandard or harsh conditions of architectural practices in the region in general. The strands of work that may outline such strategies would be based on the premise that the norms by which buildings, use and habitation are understood and conceived cannot apply unaltered or untailored to address that particular context. In fact, a re-evaluation of certain standards, whether functional, technical and/or typological would be necessary in order to devise architectural approaches that are place and culture specific. Landscape, in this sense would play an instrumental role in altering the conventions of technique as well as form and space making. The studio will also examine the idea of human adaptability to space such as landscape, shelter, interior, etc. while redefining the parameters and standards of comfort and pleasure. Thus program or function would consequently undergo parallel mutations. Such investigations would entail a broader study of the potentials of architectural practice and production in developing countries with the strict borders and boundaries that define their culture of building. The intent is to expand such limits by accepting and adopting the parameters of building techniques, budget, craftsmanship, availability of materials and local technology. It constitutes an approach that subverts from within, and that proposes change by an economy of means and by precise transformations to the constituents of building processes. The change, though not necessarily radical, opens a field of possibilities or forms experimental platforms by which the evolution of architecture in a given place may be manipulated and directed. The studio would articulate and define design driven strategies through a process of internalizing the particular conditions of place, context and culture into an architectural discourse that aims to transform from within. This Option Studio Will Take Place on the Following Dates:August 1 – 2September 16 – 24 (studio trip)September 27 – October 7October 18 – 28November 8 – 18November 29 – December 9