Reasserting the Past and Preserving the Future: A Cultural Center in Wadi Rum

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Virginia Tech


Although only a few of us have been to the desert, we all have a clear and chromatic image of it. Our mental representation of these landscapes has been formed throughout the years through photographic media and film. A few well known visual and literary works that contributed to the myth of the desert include:

Le Petit Prince (1943), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926), T.E Lawrence
Lawrence of Arabia (1962), David Lean Theeb (2014), Naji Abu Nowar

This fascination led to an increase in demand for travel to these mythological places. Such an increase raises particular challenges for the desert and its inhabitants that include a demand for services and infrastructure and an appetite to learn more about the site. The phenomenon creates new issues that require creative solutions and interventions.

How can architecture provide spaces as a solution to mitigate these issues? The thesis examines the question in the context of the Wadi Rum Protected Area (WRPA), a UNESCO world heritage site that is located in the Arabian Desert region. It proposes a cultural center that reflects the ecological and cultural significance of the site. The architecture of the building converges elements from the desert with elements from local bedouin culture. The building aims to create spaces for educational opportunities to the bedouin and the tourist in order to enhance the visitor's experiences and enrich the local's knowledge.



Architecture, Desert, Tourism, Wadi Rum, Cultural Center, Jordan