Amman Design Week takes design back to its roots

Aidan Imanova visited the inaugural Amman Design Week which offered an insight into Jordan’s relationship with design.

A table based on the eight roundabouts of Amman was one of the works on show at the first ever Amman Design Week, created by Dubai-based, Jordanian designer, Jafar Dajani.

Wanting to keep the memories of old Amman alive, Dajani used materials that symbolised the colours and textures one would see throughout their journey from the first to the final roundabout. The stacked table includes materials such as metal to represent cars, well-known Jordanian stone and wood that is reminiscent of construction sites.

He added that these roundabouts are now seen as the backbone of the city, standing long before the tunnels and bridges one encounters in Amman today.

Dajani’s piece was exhibited at The Hangar Exhibition, one of the three main venues during Amman Design Week, which took place from 1-9 September. The exhibition was co-curated by architects Dina Haddadin and Sahel Al Hiyari.

Al Hiyari explained that the curation did not include a defining theme for designers to abide by, but rather, due to it being the first programme of its kind in Amman, the mission was provide a platform for the developing design industry to showcase where it stands at the present moment. This resulted in a showcase that presented a bigger local and regional focus, in comparison to other design weeks in the region.

Due to Amman having what Al Hiyari described as a “developing design scene”, a lot of the works and designers were discovered by word of mouth and recommendations from fellow architects, designers and artists.

“What I discovered through the show is that there are a lot of common denominators that designers here work with, but they work with them quite differently and the results show a sharp contrast but at the same time there is this sort of underlying connection between them that I call the soul of the work,” Al Hiyari said.

He added that design fabrication is something that is almost non-existent in the county, which results in designers being more in connection with the idea of hand-made design, which then gives rise to more freedom and improvisation.

“There aren’t any critical structures here that guide designers or veer them towards certain trends, that doesn’t exist here,” he said.

“The absence of this means there is a lot more freedom and capacity to be yourself because you don’t have this critical machine in the back telling you what to do. That kind of fear doesn’t exist here. So, in general this was the result that we could extract from the show.”

Not all who exhibited at the Hangar Exhibition are trained designers, and some wouldn’t even consider themselves as such.

Ahmad Jallouk owns a lingerie store in Downtown Amman, and collects discarded pieces of glass, from bottles to light bulbs, and reshapes those using stone into items that have environmental value, all crafted using a handmade technique. His installation The Glass Shaper was exhibited as part of The Hangar.

“The beauty of his pieces is that Jallouk also treats them with the religious respect of relics, which is why they are exhibited the way they are,” said Al Hiyari.

Hiyari added that one of the key messages that he wanted to send out through the exhibition is that “design is not restricted to designers”.

“Design involves people from different paths of life, from vegetable peddlers who design their own displays to children who create their own toys, and it is about collaborating and working together, and the results of these collaborations are usually the strongest.”