Landesign to bring lost city of Petra back to life

Landesign has unveiled the preliminary concepts for a major design and architecture project at the historical city of Petra in Jordan (pictured below).

Working in collaboration with Edward Cullinan Architects and local architect Bitar Consultants, Landesign has produced designs for Petra Gateway, a visitor complex commissioned by Jordan’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities that will introduce the history of the lost city through a series of five galleries and an amphitheatre. The concept stage has now been signed off by the World Bank, which is funding the project.

Petra was the sacred home of the Nabateans, an Arab tribe which made it the capital of their kingdom around 315 BC. ‘It is a World Heritage Site of the highest order, just amazing,’ says Landesign creative director Peter Higgins.

The Gateway will serve both as a visitor centre and as a cultural reference point and meeting place. The galleries will present Petra’s architecture, engineering, arts, crafts and writings.

The first of the galleries is a ‘filmic’ display of drawings that chronicle the city’s rediscovery in the early 19th century. The second is dedicated to its pre-history, offering an understanding of the geology and sociology that account for its location.

The third gallery is the largest and takes the form of a living city. According to Higgins, it will use objects to ‘evoke the spirit of the city as it was over [a period of] around 600 years’. The following area will attempt to establish why Petra disappeared and the final gallery looks broadly at how ‘archaeologists have become storytellers’, trying to raise the profile of the profession.

The teams go on-site next year and the build is scheduled for completion in mid-2007. ‘If we pull it off it will be a major achievement, setting the standard for interpretational design; a model of how to bring a site to life,’ says Higgins.

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