AMMAN—At Amman Design Week, which concluded last week, visitors could admire chairs made of earth or compressed sponge, jewelry made of asphalt, toys made of cardboard and walls made of fabric. The event, held across half a dozen venues and many neighborhoods, showcased local designers.
But Amman Design Week seeks to be more than just an exhibition, said director Rana Beiruti. It hopes to act as “a connecting point” for designers in Jordan and the region and to encourage innovation and yield insights into what forms of support designers need.
The event featured talks, concerts and guided tours of several Amman neighborhoods; “sketch safaris” in which participants drew while on the move through the city; and workshops in jewelry-making, weaving, knitting, print-making and using design software.
The main exhibition—whose theme was “possibilities”—took place in the Hangar, a former power station that has been remodeled into a cultural space.
Many of the artists there expressed themselves in maps. The artist Farida Khaled mapped the prices of bananas across Cairo, illustrating the Egyptian capital’s many parallel economies. The Jordanian Cluster Labs presented a series of maps that showed the dramatic impact of urban sprawl and mining on the Jordanian landscape.
Other forms of mapping were more personal. The Foundland Collective displayed drawings and models of homes as remembered by Syrian emigrants. In their project Amman ya Amman, Nadine Zaza and Sama El Saket produced illustrated panels based on interviews with residents of the city, and combined them to present an image of a shared vision of the Jordanian capital.
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Some works focused on possibilities that have been foreclosed, although perhaps not forever.
Dima Srouji’s work Hollow Forms juxtaposed photographs of ancient glass vases from the Levant that are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and clear glass replicas produced by a family of artisans in Palestine. Although Srouji’s subject—Western archaeology’s complicity in the theft of local heritage—is not new, the photographs presented it in an evocative way.
Another project, by a Jordanian architecture student, Jude Abu El Ghanam, documented the site of Al-Baqourah, on the Jordanian-Israeli border. It is the site of a train station and hydroelectric power station created in the 1930s by the Palestinian Electric Company. These structures are abandoned ruins today, part of an area that was leased to Israel by Jordan as part of their 1994 Peace Treaty. The 25-year lease expires this month, and El Ghanam asks the question: What should the future of the area be?