The detailed master plan for the Jordan Development Zones Company (JDZ) by Sasaki Associates encompasses 40 square kilometers of land along the north and east coast of the historic Dead Sea. Over the past 15 years, the Kingdom of Jordan has focused on a balanced approach towards development and preservation in order to capitalize on increased tourism and to provide improvements to local existing communities. In 2008, a development authority was created to establish a detailed master plan as a sustainable framework for existing committed lands, future development parcels, infrastructure provisions, and natural resources protection. The resulting master plan establishes a comprehensive and site specific approach to the social, economic and environmental sustainability issues facing this stunning setting. More images and project description after the break.
As the lowest point on the earth’s dry land surface – and in the heart of the historic Jordan Rift Valley that includes the city of Jericho – the Dead Sea is an unparalleled natural attraction, with mineral rich saline waters that have drawn visitors from around the world for thousands of years. The Dead Sea’s geological history began millions of years ago. A mere 9,000 years ago, the Abrahamic faiths arose, bringing a profound historic and cultural meaning to the region. Local communities, villagers, and Bedouins have inhabited the lands ever since.
The Dead Sea sits in a vast valley with dramatic rock cliffs rising to the east and west. To the north, the cliffs flatten out slightly as the valley opens towards the Jordan River. The cliffs frame the sea with dramatic shapes and colors, while hidden, verdant “wadis” carved through the rock reveal sculptural landscapes teeming with life. As for the Sea itself, it is one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth due to extremely high evaporation rates. An extensive site analysis was conducted on the indigenous landscape and ecological systems that have formed the Dead Sea and continue to influence it: water recession, natural hot springs, native flora and fauna, native Tamarisk habitat, and Important Bird Area (IBA) flyways.
Balanced approach to development: The master plan lays out a vision and blueprint for fostering a dynamic, robust, and sustainable tourism-based economy at the Dead Sea that will become a source of pride and revenue for the Kingdom and set the highest standard for sustainable development and innovative urban design. Critically, the plan establishes a “balanced approach” between development and conservation of the Dead Sea’s precious resources while supporting social infrastructure for nearby existing communities.
Strong social infrastructure and sustainably managed resources: Comprehensive design guidelines, a detailed infrastructure report, and an extensive market study provide the client with tools to attract investment and steer future development in support of the Plan’s vision and goals. Future development will follow a carefully choreographed phasing plan that capitalizes on existing investments, introduces infrastructure to precede development, and preserves large contiguous tracts of developable land as future land banks. An early disposition strategy is in place and full build-out will develop over the coming 25 years. The design team produced a Strategic Environmental Assessment, the first of its kind and scope in Jordan, in parallel with the Master Plan, informing sustainability strategies incorporated in the Plan.
Future development must capitalize on the Dead Sea’s assets without exploiting them. The Dead Sea’s many assets include unique health benefits, diverse and beautiful ecological systems, and an impressive cultural history. Extensive site analysis with a focus on natural systems informs a robust understanding of what might attract visitors to the Dead Sea as well as the measures necessary to protect these critical assets from exploitation.
The first step in framing the master plan includes determining net usable land – identifying privately held land which is not within the purview of the JDZ, and setting aside ecologically sensitive land for conservation. The resulting developable land inventory becomes the basis for strategic interventions and development proposals. Strategic interventions throughout the project site must leverage and activate existing development – including the Village of Sweimeh – and provide a robust public realm, unique development opportunities, and sustainable infrastructure.
The Master Plan conceives of the 40 km project site as a series of districts, each with its own mixed use ‘activity node’ providing a critical mass of services including public water access, views, vibrant street life and a range of development opportunities for all scales of investment from international developers to local businesses. A spectrum of sustainable infrastructure systems – an improved road network, public transportation, fresh water supply, waste water treatment, and utilities – stitch the districts together.
Reinforcing the public realm: Critical to promoting a robust, sustainable economy is bolstering all aspects of the public realm. Fostering vibrant public life throughout the project site affords visitors and residents opportunities to access the Sea, engage in commerce, enjoy public open spaces, and foster community. The proposed Corniche District – a dynamic mixed-use boulevard abutting a unique ecological preserve and capped by lively hotels, commercial, cultural and public spaces, with access to the Dead Sea’s first public beaches – exemplifies these priorities.
Public services and amenities serve the entire project site and are clustered in a new district adjacent to the village of Sweimeh, a small and struggling community of 4,200 residents. Much-needed health care facilities, educational opportunities, affordable housing, and other industries and services initiate a critical mass of commercial activity. The development of this district diversifies the economic base of the Dead Sea and provides employment opportunities and services to residents.
Spatial and design priorities include promoting connectivity throughout the project site, particularly to the Sea. Land to the East of the Dead Sea Highway is cut off from the Sea not only by a wall of privatized land and inward-focused developments along the coast, but by the busy Highway itself. The master plan identifies all available seaside parcels and proposes they be developed as mixed-use nodes focused on public open space and access to the Sea. Signalized crossings are introduced at these critical points along the Dead Sea Highway, allowing safe pedestrian and vehicular movement from upland areas to the Sea.
Connectivity to the Sea: Proposed development near the cluster of resorts abutting the existing Convention Center demonstrates increased connectivity across the Dead Sea Highway and to the Sea itself. Available coastal parcels, wedged between large, insular resorts, provide a new model of development, respecting natural assets, incorporating open space, and welcoming commerce, public life, and pedestrian activity.
Sustainability Strategies: Sustainability strategies permeate the plan from a regional scale to a building scale. At the regional scale, the scarcity of fresh water is addressed through a careful analysis of future supply and the introduction of measures to mitigate demand. A proposed centralized Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) will recycle precious water for irrigation while solving basic public health and pollution problems caused by insufficient waste infrastructure. Public transportation – within districts, throughout the project site, and connecting to regional destinations – reduces reliance on private vehicles. At a district level, streets and blocks are laid out to minimize solar heat gain on buildings. At the building scale, guidelines informed by the Jordanian Green Building initiative promote sustainable strategies such as building shading, material selection, and xeric planting palettes that conserve resources while referencing regional design and enhancing a sense of place. A holistic approach to economic development and social support of the populations needed to run this economy contribute to economic and social sustainability. Architects: Sasaki Associates Location: Jordan Client: Jordan Development Zones Company (JDZ) Project Team: Dennis Pieprz, Mitch Glass, Romil Sheth, Victor Eskinazi, Katie Flynn, Vee Petchthevee, Makie Suzuki, Robyn Reed, Jom Naknakorn, Wendy Wang, Andy McClurg, Allison Albericci, Neda Movaghar, Stephen Kun Consultants: Tetra Tech, Sigma, Buro Happold, Arch Partners Size: 40 square kilometers Completion Date: June 2011