Before a line is drawn, before a brick is laid we take a virtual journey and immerse ourselves in the universe of historic Al Rusafa. A place with so many layers of history and so many millions of memories of people that for generations throughout the centuries have come to call this ancient district “home”. The physical domain, the buildings and the streets abandoned and mutilated, bear the pain as silent witnesses and reveal the devastation of the war and of the social structures that once inhabited them.
We aim to replace the narrative of pain, mutilation and neglect with a narrative of memory, heritage and renaissance; a process that is already visible and that has been resilient to years of instability. We draw our inspiration from the street markets in Al Muttanabbi Street, from the vibrancy of the suqs populating the narrow alleys and from the beauty of the architecture still present in the historical landmarks of Al-Qishla, King Ghazi Mosque and other historical buildings in Al Rusafa.
Our proposal focuses on sensitively restoring the existing building without plastering over the scars that bear the weight of history; a restoration approach to halt the decay but not aimed at re-building it or beautifying it. As such we choose to expose the existing brick foundations of the imposing neoclassical façade along with its intricate decorative features; where there is damage or partial demolition, a new material is introduced keeping a record of what is old and what is new.
We pair the restoration of the shell with the introduction of a new catalogue of forms and materials to create the cultural centre. A cast-in-situ tinted concrete structure houses the new program for the building; bronze mashrabiya screens and a colonnade shield the building from the sun while the roof opens to the north to let natural light in.
The entrance from the main street welcomes you with a grand triple height reception. The front part of the Design Centre houses a library on the two top levels; at the back we are location the exhibition hall as well as the co-working offices and workshops for designers, architects and artists.