Expand the Landscape to Disappear
The Al-‘Ula desert hosts an archaeological landscape of rare beauty adorned with sandstone pinnacles and mountains forged by the wind. It is a giant of architecture, as imposing as it is evanescent. And now, it has a stage that does justice to this.
The transparent, mirror construction rises in the heart of Petra, the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, and delicately defines a human incursion into these lands. As one moves closer to this reflective cube, perhaps looking up at one of the upper corners, the semblance to a pyramid is evident.
This is the Maraya Concert Hall, a cultural venue with a 500-seater theater, and to anyone who knows Arabic, the very name – maraya means mirror – hints at its most unique aspect.
Designed by Giò Forma Studio Associato, the building is clad in a mirror surface extending for 9,750 sq. m, which is so large that it made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2020. This mirror effect is central to turning the concert hall into a stage for nature, making this imposing landscape the defining element of this work. The crisp shape of the building almost disappears, the simple lines come to deceive the eye and mind, only to make an iridescent return at some other time of the day.
Behind the apparent simplicity lies technological sophistication, a fundamental requirement to adapt to the climatic and temperatures extremes of desert days and nights. For such a project, Guardian Glass played a critical role with its ad hoc glazing solutions for the exteriors. At the client’s insistence, the initial brief already spoke about giving body to a real mirror, rather than simply applying a reflective coating, to ensure humanity’s incursion into the beauty of place would be practically imperceptible. This demanding challenge was the driver for customized research to find a solution for a land that is at the mercy of the sun’s unforgiving rays, purveyors of erosion, oxidization, distortion and fading colors. The answer was a new mirror glass that harnesses the highly durable Guardian UltraMirror™ technology, which is primarily suitable for indoor use, and adds a special protective copper coating to enable it to withstand the outdoor conditions.
As these lands experience some of the harshest weather on the planet, corrosion resistance was an absolute priority from the outset and this material was just what was needed.
The trying climate also forced a rethink of the logistics, production and cutting of the panes, especially because the available time for the project was limited. It took a mere ten weeks for the Maraya Concert Hall to opens its door and raise the curtain for its first concerts.