Damascus is the capital and the second largest city of Syria, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Located in southwestern Syria, Damascus is the center of a large metropolitan area of 2.6 million people, 40% of the Syrian population is under the age of 14.
“The Massar Children’s Discovery Centre will be the heart of a Syrian educational programme - Massar. the centre will through science-based, hands-on experiences offer activities to empower young Syrians to contribute actively in building their future.
The discovery centre has a unique location in the heart of Damascus. the building comprises exhibition, library, education and administration space. the centre will be an integrated main attraction within a new 170,000m² public realm on the site.
The form is inspired by the unique Damask rose. the proposal suggests a shell structure allowing a playful and dazzling scenography of light into the interior spaces - like light filtering between rose petals. Exhibition and administrative areas are laid out between the rose petals creating interior labyrinth journeys inspired by walks in the old city of Damascus formed by walls with the sky as the window.
The centre of the rose forms a large communal orientation space. This is where people meet, share knowledge and develop new ideas together – a cross pollination of knowledge. From here series of journeys rise upwards in form of a web of ramps and steps interweaving the public plateau with the upstairs shell structure.
The central vertical movement under the open sky challenges the traditional horizontal movement in the Arab city. the Massar Children's Discovery Centre is a low energy building using local materials, skills and resources. Energy loads are reduced passively by shaping the building to keep the sun out.
The building form and fabric is optimised to reduce requirements for active or operational heating and cooling. the use of and control of solar gain can help significantly reduce energy consumption. by harnessing and storing solar gain in the winter the amount of heating can be reduced. by shading in summer, cooling loads can be reduced.
The project recycles all water in the house, the pump system and the heating of water are driven by solar energy and a geothermal heat system produces the heating for the house. Together with optimum daylight and sun screening the building has a very high environmental level.” Description of Henning Larsen.
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.”
Location: Damascus, SyriaArchitect: Henning Larsen Architects Landscape: Martha Schwartz PartnersEngineers: Buro HappoldGross floor area: 16,000 m2Year of construction: 2008 – 2013Client: Syria Trust for DevelopmentType of assignment: First prize in competition