Abdoun Fashion Atrium, Amman’s avant-garde shopping mall






On 8 November last, I walked and re-walked the aisles of BATIMAT, one of the most important trade shows in our sector. I did not choose that date by chance, but because visiting the show mid-week makes it possible to gauge the increase in the level of participation. My visit, a short one because I had a lot of meetings scheduled, was very useful to test the temperature in our sector! Below is a detailed review of my visit.

He dared to use zinc!

During Roman times, Amman was called Philadelphia. It is one of the oldest towns in the world that is still inhabited. It reminds me a little of Yona Friedman (*) when looked at from afar. A scree, bright boxes stacked on top of each other, every shade of earth possible, from white to ochre to sandy.

In 2017, after the vicissitudes of events in this corner of the globe where tensions are running high, Jordan’s heart started beating again in this region torn between its past, regally visible in its stone colonnades, and the Western overtones of its future.

Only an architect who has done his fair share of globetrotting but who also knows his own country and city like the back of his hand could have dared propose a building as striking and unexpected in this location as Abdoun Fashion Atrium, which was inaugurated in 2016.

Architect Khalid Nahhas did just that. He dared to use zinc! For my part, I could have spoken about this building simply because it was there, in this city where our zinc had never been installed. However, it is above all the undeniable architectural qualities of this complex that prompted me to highlight it in this Post.

More than just a series of shops, the developer intended to create an avant-garde complex in keeping with the products sold there by high end fashion houses. So the architect wanted to structure his project around the link between fashion and architecture, seeking common traits of lightness, evanescence and fluidity, while adding a touch of strangeness.

The Flamboyant and the Base

The programme is divided into two blocks that deliberately play on opposition. The first of these, called “the Flamboyant”, is opaque, massive, irregular and also audacious, with its spectacular overhang. The second, in the form of a mainly glass prism, is stable and solidly rooted in the ground, serves as a counterpoint to the former, and is aptly names “the Base”.

The Flamboyant wears its name well. The slender, irregular openings seem as though cut out of a mineral mass made entirely of grey zinc that is as rigid as a hull or a shield. The arbitrary layout of perforations erases any reference to constructive order, and also blurs any notion of gravity, making way for fluidity and lightness.

Zinc seemed obvious

Architect Khalid Nahhas wanted a lightweight material that would respond well to the hazards of the climate. He also wanted a natural material. He chose perforated composite zinc panels, which were used in a rather sophisticated double-skin system. The cuts in the panels contribute to ventilation, and to controlling lighting and views, while responding to the wish to minimize quantities of material used, thanks to the intelligent design. In short, more grey matter and fewer raw materials!

The jury unanimously decided to award a prize to this project in 2016 during the last Archizinc Trophy competition!

  More articles about architecture
  Roger Baltus's column

* The Demodulor project was initiated in 2013, as part of an Ademe call for projects focusing on the improvement of construction waste management. The challenge: make it possible to deconstruct buildings.