On Tuesday, as the sun set on the inaugural edition of Amman Design Week, a new light was shed on Jordan’s aspirations.
Investment in the arts, creative communities and design is often a sign of a mature civilisation and an established economy. Under the patronage of Queen Rania Al Abdullah, the annual event attempts to redraft global perceptions of the nation and support its growing creative class.
“Amman is a city that lies at the crossroads of civilisations, and has been a sought-after point of convergence for people from all walks of life,” say fair directors Rana Beiruti and Abeer Seikaly. “It is amid the uniqueness and in light of its centrality that Amman Design Week was envisaged as a platform that can harness creativity, revive the conversation about design, and instill a spirit of collaboration and exchange.”
Be it through reimagine the past, or in celebration of self-empowerment through digital tools, regional designers are creating in a manner that is as rooted in its own vernacular as it is experimental and topical to the region. From problem-solving and enhancing communities to bringing concepts to life, design has the power to reshape the future. Amman Design Week attempted just that, and in my opinion, succeeded in style.
The multidisciplinary, inclusive public programme of the inaugural edition rested on three pillars: the Hangar Exhibition, the MakerSpace and the Crafts District. Together they engaged in an exchange of ideas, invigorated communities and brought to the fore avid learners and proactive makers in Jordan.
Curated by Sahel Al Hiyari, the principal architect at the leading Jordanian firm Sahel Al Hiyari Architects, this presentation at the Ras Al Ain Gallery was dedicated to new-generation experimental designers and creators from the region. Raya Kassisieh and Nader Tehrani worked with local women communities to create Entrelac, a monumental woven installation using 350kg of undyed yarn — the material bias of a simple jersey knit surface. Suspended from the venue’s high trussed ceilings, the architecturally scaled garment exuded geometric exactitude, entropy and material manipulation all at once.
Impress by Hiba Shahzada used interwoven copper wires to simulate a transformative, three-dimensional plane. “What the mind conceives, whether of an object or a space, is never reduced to a single drawing, a single sketch or model,” says Shahzada of the concept. Inspired by Ode to a Human Soul, a poem by Ibn Sina, Adel Abidin presented the multimedia sculpture AlWarqaa. Detached, yet eternal, there was a spiritual quality to this sculpture as it radiated light in the intangible profile of a dove. Dubai’s Aljoud Lootah showcased the marble edition of her acclaimed piece, Unfolding Unity, which was first presented to the public at Design Days Dubai earlier this year.
Al Hiyari presented a simple yet haunting outdoor installation focused on the entrance into the courtyard at the venue. Through a series of columns, A Memorial For A Lost Courtyard I Have Never Been To brings to light an old courtyard that lay forgotten within the urban fabric of humble buildings of the past.
The Crafts District
Dina Haddadin, the Jordanian architect and a self-taught visual artist, activated the 35-year-old Raghadan Bus Terminal, turning the venue into a celebration of the country’s rich crafts heritage and in a manner of speaking, fulfilled the terminal’s destiny as a commercial centre — a plan that never came to light. Colonnade + The Bridge, Haddadin’s temporary installation, borrows materials from our everyday landscape to create a narrative that weaves the real and the imaginary into a stunning composition that is visible from afar. As the entry to the venue, the Colonnade was imagined as a transient structure built using 12 scaffolding towers arranged in the form of a grid and placed in the middle of the empty plaza. Weaving a 700-metre piece of orange tarp — the material usually used to veil construction sites — between the posts, the architect achieved archways mimicking those along Quraish Street, the route leading down to the Terminal.
Eschewing the loneliness of the Raghadan Bridge, Haddadin wove the brightly coloured tarp on the existing structure of the unused bridge. This joyous expression that hinted both at impermanence and history led the way to a series of canopy installations and workshops that brought the terminal alive.
Located in the Jordan museum, this presentation was a demonstration of the vision, perseverance and creative might of makers. Interacting with modern digital fabrication tools and innovative technologies, including 3D printers against the backdrop of iconic artefacts on show at the museum, visitors were taken on the evolutionary journey of innovation. Showcasing makers who are exploring new forms and new technologies in different sectors — renewable energy, health care, architecture, engineering, crafts and the products and services sector, to name a few — the exhibit delivered on its purpose of inspiring visitors and nurturing collaborations between disciplined designers and makers.