Massar Childrens Discovery Centre

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Massar Childrens Discovery Centre

MASSAR CHILDREN’S DISCOVERY CENTRE Location " Damascus, Syria Client " Massar Gross floor area " Discovery centre: 16,000 m² Park: 170,000 m² Construction period - 2009-2012 Team - Henning Larsen Architects, Buro Happold Engineering, Martha Schwartz Landscape Architects and Geoffrey Barnett Associates The Massar Children’s Discovery Centre will be the heart of a Syrian educational programme - Massar. The centre will through science-based, hands-on experiences offer activities to empower young Syrians to contribute actively in building their future. The Discovery Centre has a unique location in the heart of Damascus. The 16.000 m² building comprises exhibition, library, education and administration space. The centre will be an integrated main attraction within a new 170,000m² public realm on the site. The site’s former use as the International Fairground gave the site a new identity and became a destination for the people of Damascus. It was the heart of Damascus for many years and an important destination within the city. The site will again with the Discovery Centre and Public Realm become a vibrant destination for the people of Damascus giving the Old International Fairground a new identity as the cultural valley. The Discovery Centre has its setting in a park. It is designed as a freestanding gesture in the valley with no front or back as a pavilion in the park. The Discovery Centre is placed at the far northeast corner of the park in urban dialogue with its location and volume of its neighbours - the national museum, the opera and university. The location both mark the corner of the park while provide a quite plaza between the Discovery Centre and the University south of the site. Furthermore is secures the rest of the site as a park in the future. The park is envisaged as a green public park for everyone. A family destination for recreation in the dense city of Damascus for picnic and promenading. The Public Realm will embrace the existing Barada canal to the north and the natural valley cliff to the south. A paved walkway forms a spine of the park linking up with the city’s prominent cultural institutions. The discovery centre finds inspiration from the unique Damask rose. The proposal suggests a shell structure allowing a playful and dazzling scenography of light into the interior spaces - like light filtering between rose petals. Exhibition and administrative areas are laid out between the rose petals creating interior labyrinth journeys inspired by walks in the old city of Damascus formed by walls with the sky as the window. Public, educational and support rooms are placed at the ground floor forming a plateau rising from the old riverbed of the life-giving Barada River. The centre of the rose forms a large communal orientation space. This is where people meet, share knowledge and develop new ideas together – a cross pollination of knowledge. From here series of journeys rise upwards in form of a web of ramps and steps interweaving the public plateau with the upstairs shell structure. The central vertical movement under the open sky challenges the traditional horizontal movement in the Arab city. SUSTAINABILITY The Massar Children’s Discovery Centre is a low energy building using local materials, skills and resources. Energy loads are reduced passively by shaping the building to keep the sun out. The building form and fabric is optimised to reduce requirements for active or operational heating and cooling. The use of and control of solar gain can help significantly reduce energy consumption. By harnessing and storing solar gain in the winter the amount of heating can be reduced. By shading in summer, cooling loads can be reduced. The project recycles all water in the house, the pump system and the heating of water are driven by solar energy and a geothermal heat system produces the heating for the house. Together with optimum daylight and sun screening the building has a very high environmental level.

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