The ancient stone-carved city of Petra is famous the world over. Known as one of the seven wonders of the world, the ruins generate most, if not all, of the tourism for Wadi Musa, the Jordan town that sits adjacent to the city. Tourism has also led Wadi Musa to develop into a sprawling thoroughfare of shops, kiosks, and hospitality services. This urban chaos would be an abrupt contrast to Petra, were it not for the intervention of Maisam Architects & Engineers. The design firm is responsible for "A Gateway to Petra," a structure that frames the entrance to the ruins while incorporating the planned and existing tourist buildings in the area.
The Gateway takes the form of a series of walls that appear to be carved out of the landscape. These walls are arranged so as to bring together the disparate elements of the site, such as a hotel, a visitor’s center, and a proposed museum. Together, they form a plaza that preserves the existing views of the town, the cliffs of Petra, and the area’s sparse greenery. As the designers themselves say, “The aim here is to respect the scenery from the gateway area as it has been for thousands of years and to create a design solution that minimally intervenes or disrupts this natural topography.”
The design preserves existing kiosks and shops, and even plans out a few new ones. It is hoped that this will encourage locals and visitors to meet and mingle on the plaza, bringing foreigners closer to the culture of Jordan.
A Gateway to Petra was completed in 2013, and has since earned a LEAF Award for “Urban Design of the Year." The project design was also shortlisted in the cultural category of the World Architecture Festival Awards in 2011.