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Friday, November 28, 2008

Massar Children’s Discovery Centre, Damascus, Syria

Dramatic discovery centre leads way for Syrian educational programme
As one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, Damascus represents discovery all by itself. Evoking the necessity to embrace this spirit are the statistics - 40% of the Syrian population is under the age of 14. Embarking on a revolutionary project for the historical city are Henning Larsen Architects, Martha Schwartz Partners and engineers Buro Happold who will work together to create the dramatic Massar Children’s Discovery Centre and public park in the heart of Damascus.

The Massar project’s ambition is to create better educational opportunities for young people. The centre will comprise various scientific thematic exhibitions for children aged 5-15. The discovery centre – designed by Henning Larsen Architects - is located on a 170,000 sq m river bed site. It is located centrally in walking distance from Damascus’ historic city centre with the Umayyad Mosque and university, national opera and national museum in close proximity.

Louis Becker, Design Director of Henning Larsen Architects, said: “The discovery centre’s form is inspired by the unique Damascus rose. The shape provides shade and natural ventilation in the building. Its centre forms a large communal space. This is where the children will meet, share their knowledge and develop new ideas together. The idea of the project is to create a park which features a quilt of activities interwoven with the discovery centre. The visitors will be led through several intimate spatial experiences addressing all the senses. Water will be current theme – both as activity and as a visualisation of sustainable measures and educational media.”

Martha Schwartz Partners Ltd will provide the public realm and landscape design for the project. Based on the site of the old international fairground, the public realm acts as a ‘culture corridor’, connecting the public space of the Discovery Centre with nearby cultural venues. Lorraine Landels, Senior Principal at Martha Schwartz Partners, said: “This is a landmark project as the park and the discovery centre will be the focus for a new Syrian educational programme, and one that will help us develop our portfolio as we work in the unique cultural climate of Damascus”.

Tom Hay, Buro Happold’s project leader said “This project is unique in that it gives the children of Syria the means to view the world around them through Syria’s incomparable cultural heritage. This is a milestone that will empower the children of Syria, and the Buro Happold Massar team feels proud and privileged to take part in this process.”
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