Amman Lab


Nora Akawi, director

Migration, revolutions, conflict and continuous renegotiations of the notion of citizenship are reshaping cities in the Arab world at a speed that renders a generation of young architects and planners in a state of constant uncertainty. While it is true that Amman ranks high in the scale of stability in comparison to other major cities in the region, it remains as it always was: a living organism that is directly responsive to its regional context. Amman grows and transforms in response to the needs of a population that increases in sudden bursts, largely as a result of neighboring conflict. As the city continues to grow, it faces the common challenges of an overwhelmed infrastructure, unplanned residential expansion and lack of public spaces, as well as faces the risks of class and identity-based segregation, processes of gentrification and privatization.

Studio-X in Amman is a platform for multidisciplinary collaborations between GSAPP and the Columbia Global Centers | Middle East (Amman), and institutions and individuals in Jordan and the region to address questions of mobility, accessibility, public space, representation and participation. The Amman Lab, opened in 2009, became a point of reference in Amman (and to some extent, in the region) for experimental design and research dedicated to investigating the future of cities. Amman Lab activities (lectures, symposia, screenings and roundtables) are today recognized occasions for architects and designers in Amman to get together to share work, ideas and opinions.

The Public Space Workshop (PSW), directed by Kamal Farah and Jennifer Broutin, is an annual program assembling experts and students focusing on the future of public space. The 4th PSW, held in July 2012 entitled ‘Presence’, operated for the first time in two cities: Amman and Istanbul, the latter currently emerging as a hub in the Studio-X Global Network. With students and faculty from GSAPP, the Jordan University of Science and Technology, Bilgi University, and Istanbul Technical University, the teams investigated the notion of “presence” in the city, developing proposals for interfaces activating public spaces through user participation.

As part of the design studio Live 2: Art + Power + Space taught by Mario Gooden, GSAPP students spent two weeks between Amman and Dubai in October 2012 to conduct research on the role of architecture in the production, display and promotion of Arab Art within both the regional and global markets. They also worked on site-analysis for their design proposals for a new gallery space in Amman. Architects and artists Ammar Khammash and Saba Innab attended their presentations at the Columbia Global Centers | Middle East for a review. A public roundtable discussion with Jack Persekian, Dina Haddadin, Saba Innab and Mario Gooden was held at Darat al Funun.

In November 2012, Studio-X Amman participated in the 1st Qalandia International Biennial and the 4th Riwaq Biennial by organizing, in collaboration with Riwaq – Center for Architectural Conservation, a three-day symposium titled Modernity, Architecture and Urban Life in the Arab Region in Ramallah and Amman. The event brought together scholars, architects and architecture historians to share their research as well as engage in a critical debate on the notion of Modernity, and the multiplicity of its manifestations in Arab cities. Participants included Felicity Scott, Craig Konyk, Jyoti Hosagrahar from GSAPP, as well as Senan Abdelqader from Jerusalem, George Arbid from Beirut, Rami Daher from Amman, Omar Nagati from Cairo, Samir Srouji from Nazareth, Salim Tamari and Inass Yassin from Ramallah, amongst others.

Urban Futures 2030: Heritage, Technology, Sustainability (Beijing, Mumbai, Amman) was organized at the Amman Lab in December 2012 with Jyoti Hosagrahar to present the previous Urban Future 2030 events held in Studio-X Mumbai and Studio-X Beijing in order to start a public conversation on the issues to be addressed in the 2013 Amman episode of this cross-Studio-X conference.

In the Spring of 2013, Frederic Levrat’s Knowledge City studio collaborated with Phillip Anzalone’s Laboratory for Applied Building Science on a design course titled Knowledge City: Information Infrastructure. In collaboration with the Greater Amman Municipality, Petra Aluminum Company, 7iber Media Platform, Arini, and Engicon, the studio studied the relationship between Information and Communication Technology and the dissemination of information throughout the city using existing infrastructure, specifically public transportation. Students developed a proposal for a smart bus stop at Amman’s North Terminal, and in collaboration with students from the University of Jordan and House [B] Studio, built a full-scale mock-up of the pavilion with an audio-visual installation. The program was organized by Studio-X’s Amman Lab in collaboration with the Columbia Global Centers | Middle East, and GSAPP Alumnus Roula Salamoun.

Studio-X Amman Lab also participated in the 11th Sharjah Biennial in May 2013, on the closing weekend of the Biennial, curated by Yuko Hasegawa. In partnership with the Sharjah Art Foundation, Studio-X in Amman organized a tour and public panel titled Between Past and Future: Tradition, Technology, Innovation. The program consisted of a tour of Jazirat Al Hamra (Ras Al Khaima) with Ronald Hawker, and a panel with George Katodrytis, Noura Al Sayeh, Yasser El Sheshtawy, and Peter Jackson to present their research and raise questions on the place of cultural identity in the built environment, and its relationship with modernity and technology, challenging the common opposition between the traditional and the modern.

Igor Peraza A
Between Past + Future B
Art Power Space C/D
Knowledge City Information Infrastructure E