SOS Children's Village Aqaba, Jordan
Jafar Tukan & Partners
SOS Children's Village Association of Jordan
Completed in 1991
On the outskirts of Aqaba, Jordan's outlet to the Red Sea, a sensitive new project has fused a modern design vocabulary with a renewal of the local building vernacular to create a haven for orphaned children. Thoughtfully scaled and arranged and environmentally friendly, the SOS Children's Village succeeds in providing a place where children can feel at home.
Designed by Jafar Tukan and completed in 1991, the Aqaba SOS complex creates conditions for orphaned children that are as close as possible to those of normal family life. Houses accommodate nine children each - seventy-two in all - minded by a woman who becomes a surrogate mother figure. The children are provided with private meals and tutoring and have a sibling-like relationship with other children in the unit. Father figures include the "village father" (the director of the village, who lives on the premises with his real family), his assistant or deputy, and other men working in the village, such as the gardener and maintenance man. The village is integrated with the surrounding community through points of public and social interaction: a supermarket and pharmacy, which generate a small income for the village, and a sports centre and kindergarten.
Eight family houses, a staff house, an administration building, a guest house and the village director's residence are all planned around a "village square" and connected via pedestrian paths, gardens and alleyways. Because summer temperatures can reach uncomfortable heights, the complex is arranged in clusters of buildings, surrounded by breezy outdoor spaces animated by lush vegetation and shade trees. Vaulted archways lead to shaded courts, while gardens surround the buildings on all sides. The shared facilities are located on the southern border of the site, close to the main road.
Details that enliven the exterior spaces include solid-wood window frames and mashrabiyyas, or screens, which filter the light of the harsh sun. Traditional ventilation techniques have been implemented and the dwellings enjoy good thermal insulation so maintenance requirements are minimal. Domestic hot water is provided by solar panels.
Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the design is its use of a traditional cladding of random granite stones. Drawing on the example of the few remaining traditional buildings in Aqaba's old town, the architect implemented a study of the best way to build with the natural stone found in the nearby mountains. The architect specified that the stone was "not to be mechanically cut or dressed but [had to] remain completely natural". Having mastered the process, the builder and contractor were able to train others, contributing to a revival of traditional building techniques. At the same time, modern elements were introduced, with wooden structural elements replaced by pre-cast concrete.
The loss of its traditional buildings has left Aqaba with little by way of a distinctive architectural or urban character. Because the industrial building materials favoured by Jordan's construction industry have marginalized the input of local communities, Aqaba has few local architects and no professional, trained labour force. The use of stone in this project has created a new precedent for local building. The village's architecture is now being used as a model and has given local authorities an added incentive to upgrade the old town's infrastructure, which they have come to view as the heart of Aqaba's urban fabric. Private properties must now be built in a style that is defined as a mixture of modern and local, using materials from around Aqaba.
Within the village the sense of security and happiness fostered by the architecture is reflected in the civility, discipline and good manners that can be witnessed among the children. On a broader scale, the project has had a great impact on the local environment, and proposes a more sensitive approach to design and planning through a careful process of research.
This project has received an Award for creating a pleasant and attractive environment scaled to the needs of children. The aim of the village is to provide care for orphans in family houses rather than in large, impersonal institutions. Its well-defined layout creates generous communal outdoor areas, shaded courtyards and gardens. These spaces serve as safe and calm playgrounds for the children and form a desirable oasis within the arid, desert surroundings. The thoughtful and integrated architecture is a sober, modern interpretation of vernacular traditions, employing locally available building materials. Culturally and aesthetically, it sets a precedent for the creation of a new architecture that looks to the future and acknowledges the past.
SOS Children's Village Association of Jordan.
Jafar Tukan & Partners - Jafar Tukan, Principal Designer; Ralph Montgomery, Architectural Design; Munib Kayyali, Structural Engineer; Adel Taher, Mechanical Engineer; Azmi Sherif, Electrical Engineer.
Ammoun Maintenance Contracting Co.
JOD 1,211,750 (USD 1,730,000)
Design: March 1988-January 1989
Construction: February 1989-June 1991
Occupation: August 1991
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