Q+A: Meisa Batayneh on Designing a Contemporary Gateway to Petra

Architizer Editors Architizer Editors

With 90+ categories and 300+ jurors, the Architizer A+Awards is the world’s definitive architectural awards program. Following the Awards Gala and Phaidon book launch on May 14, we are pleased to share the stories behind the winners of the 2015 Awards program — see all of them here.

Maisam Architects and Engineers won the 2015 A+Award, Popular Choice, for the Landscape & Planning: Masterplan Category with A Gateway to Petra. This scheme to organize Jordan’s most important cultural destination includes a visitor center, hotel, and a plan for a museum.

Your name: Meisa Batayneh
Firm name: Maisam Architects and Engineers
Location: Amman, Jordan

© maisam architects & engineers

© maisam architects & engineers

When did you decide you want to be an architect?

I first realized I had a passion for architecture when my brother asked me to help him out while he was at architecture school; however, the turning point for me was when I won the national award for the juvenile center across the U.S.A., first prize. That was when I really realized I [wanted] to be an architect because it is highly conceptual and philosophical.

First architecture/design job?

First architecture job was at Jafar Tukan, working on the Al-Najah National University in Palestine. As Maisam Architects and Engineers, our first project was a villa for a son and his mother living together while maintaining the individuality and privacy. This social issue of parents and children living in the Middle East was a challenge — we advocated to update the law to allow for such an intervention.

Design hero and/or favorite building and why?

Jean Nouvel’s Lucerne [Cultural and Congress Center] in Switzerland is one of the most important projects. He is highly conceptual, ideas stem out of a philosophy and he takes it through till the end.

Tadao Ando: In his persona and work, there is philosophy and humility; he brings spirituality as a dimension into his work. Even through minimalism, he highlights the importance of contextual understanding and has a strong sense of responsibility.

What attracts me the most is that they are both true to their philosophy.

© maisam architects & engineers

© maisam architects & engineers

Among your fellow A+Award winners, what is/are your favorite?

The Dryline [f.k.a. Big U], as it embraces a natural disaster — instead of blocking the water, it welcomes it, creating more public spaces, to serve and add to N.Y.C.’s beauty. For me, they designed a halo of parks beyond Central Park.

Who would be your dream client and why?

My dream client would be people in refugee camps all over the world, postwar or post-disaster — a reconstruction project.

What do you find exciting about architecture right now?

What is exciting is that we are moving from flashy, statement, arrogant designs to bringing social sustainability to the table as a main driver, giving architecture a new meaning. And that is feeding into our philosophy at Maisam, which has brought us international recognition and the 2015 Architizer A+Award.

© maisam architects & engineers

© maisam architects & engineers

Tell us something that people might not know about your A+Award submission:

The project went beyond the master plan into a new phase where multiple projects opportunities opened in the area. We are working collaboratively on a museum, funded by the Japanese government, in Petra, Jordan. And another resort in little Petra to be designed, built, and managed by the community, enhancing social sustainability in the area.

Winning the Architizer award will contribute to more projects, helping Petra to regain its targets for tourism, which dropped heavily in 2015, by 37%. Architizer will spark worldwide interest in Petra!

See all of the 2015 A+Award Winners here and all of the Winner Q+As here — and order the book from Phaidon here.

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