Tukan, Jafar (1938–)

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Tukan, Jafar

Jafar Tukan is a Palestinian architect who is the most senior and accomplished architect at work in Jordan and the Middle East in the early twenty-first century.


Jafar Ibrahim Tukan (also Ja'far Tuqan) was born in 1938 in Jerusalem, British-controlled Palestine, to a prominent Muslim Palestinian family from the central Palestinian town of Nablus. His father, Ibrahim Tuqan (1905–1941), was a legendary Palestinian poet. Described as Palestine's poet laureate, he was working at the time of Jafar's birth for the Arabic section of the British administration's radio broadcasting service. Jafar's aunt, Fadwa Tuqan (1917–2003) was a famous poet in her own right as well.

Tukan, who lost his father to illness when he was a small boy, attended the al-Najah National College secondary school in Nablus and graduated with a bachelor's degree in architectural engineering from The American University of Beirut in 1960. Thereafter he worked for the Jordanian ministry of public works as a design architect from 1960 to 1961 before moving to Beirut and joining with Dar Al-Handasah Consulting Engineers. In 1968 Tukan left to start his own architectural firm in Beirut. In 1973 he merged it with another firm to become Rais and Tukan Architects. Its main office was in Beirut, with branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. When he moved to Amman in 1976, the firm was renamed Jafar Tukan and Partners Architects and Engineers. The firm merged in 2003 with Consolidated Consultants for Engineering and the Environment, where he works today.


Tukan and his firm are responsible for a number of buildings around the Arab world, especially in Jordan. He designed the Amman municipality building (1997); a prototype kindergarten school in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (1980); the Jubilee High School in Amman (1999); and the SOS Children's Village in Aqaba, Jordan (2001). Tukan also designed the headquarters of the Arab Bank and the Royal Automobile Museum, both in Amman. Shortly after the death of Palestinian leader yasir arafat in November 2005, Tukan was tasked with the responsibility of selecting a design for Arafat's mausoleum in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Beyond architecture, Tukan has been involved in other civic activities. He is a member of the board of trustees of the University of Jordan, sits on the executive board of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, and is a member of the Greater Amman Municipal Council.


Name: Jafar Tukan (Ja'far Tuqan)

Birth: 1938, Jerusalem, British-controlled Palestine

Nationality: Palestinian; Jordanian citizenship

Education: B.S. (architectural engineering), The American University of Beirut, 1960


  • 1960: Design architect, Jordanian ministry of public works
  • 1961: Works for Dar Al-Handasah Consulting Engineers in Beirut
  • 1968: Establishes own architectural practice in Beirut
  • 1973: Establishes Rais and Tukan Architects through a merger with another firm
  • 1976: Moves to Amman, renames company Jafar Tukan and Partners Architects and Engineers
  • 2001: Receives Agha Khan Award for Architecture
  • 2003: Merges firm with Consolidated Consultants for Engineering and the Environment
  • 2005: Selected by Palestinian officials to select a design for Yasir Arafat's mausoleum in the West Bank city of Ramallah


Tukan has received a variety of awards and honors over the years that pay tribute to his accomplishments. In both 1993 and 2002 he was given the Architectural Engineer Award from the Arab Cities Organization. His design for the SOS Children's Village earned him a prestigious Agha Khan Award for Architecture in 2001. The jury citation noted:

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. (Agha Khan Award for Architecture).

Tukan also has worked with prestigious international architects, including the late Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, with whom he collaborated in his design for the campus of the Jordan University for Science and Technology in Irbid.


Tukan will be remembered as the most important Palestinian architect of the second half of the twentieth century, particularly in Jordan.


Abu Ghanimeh, Ali, and Marion Pisani. Jafar Tukan Architecture. Rome: Libria, 2001.

"Agha Khan Award for Architecture 2001." Available from http://www.akdn.org/.

                                     Michael R. Fischbach


Mohammad al-Asad is a Jordanian architect and architectural historian. He studied architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received his Ph.D. in the history of architecture at Harvard University in 1990. Al-Asad founded the Center for the Study of Built Environment (CSBE) in Amman, and directed it until 2006. He held postdoctoral research positions at Harvard University and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; has taught at the University of Jordan, Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and currently is adjunct professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Al-Asad has served as a reviewer for the Agha Khan Award for Architecture since 1989. He also has been a member of the board of directors for the Jordan Museum, the Royal Society of Fine Arts-Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, and the Amman Commission.