2016 Space المكان

مساحة‭ ‬الإقامة‭ ‬الفنية،‭ ‬والعمل‭ ‬والمكتبة

أقيمت‭ ‬النسختان‭ ‬الأولتان‭ ‬لـ‭ ‬اجلسات‭ ‬الربيعب‭ ‬في‭ ‬مساحتين‭ ‬مؤقتتين‭ ‬مختلفتين،‭ ‬ببرنامج‭ ‬صمّم‭ ‬كل‭ ‬مرّة‭ ‬للاستفادة‭ ‬من‭ ‬وإشراك‭ ‬الأحياء‭ ‬التي‭ ‬أقيمت‭ ‬فيها‭ ‬وسياقها‭ ‬عبر‭ ‬البحث‭ ‬والمداخلات‭ ‬والمحتوى‭ ‬المتعلّق‭ ‬بالموقع‭. ‬فبينما‭ ‬أقيمت‭ ‬نسخة‭ ‬العام‭ ‬2014‭ ‬في‭ ‬فندق‭ ‬الملك‭ ‬غازي‭ ‬بشارع‭ ‬السعادة‭ ‬بوسط‭ ‬البلد‭ ‬في‭ ‬عمّان،‭ ‬انتقلت‭ ‬نسخة‭ ‬العام‭ ‬2015‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬االاستوديوب‭: ‬مساحة‭ ‬للطباعة‭ ‬تقع‭ ‬في‭ ‬شارع‭ ‬الأمير‭ ‬محمّد‭ ‬جنوب‭ ‬غرب‭ ‬وسط‭ ‬البلد‭.‬

يختلف‭ ‬برنامج‭ ‬2016‭ ‬عن‭ ‬سابقيه‭ ‬بسعيه‭ ‬لاستكشاف‭ ‬موقعين‭ ‬يبعدان‭ ‬عن‭ ‬وسط‭ ‬البلد،‭ ‬عوضاً‭ ‬عن‭ ‬مكان‭ ‬واحد‭. ‬أول‭ ‬هذين‭ ‬الموقعين،‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬سيكون‭ ‬الموقع‭ ‬الدائم‭ ‬ومساحة‭ ‬الإقامة‭ ‬الفنية،‭ ‬مساحة‭ ‬”مكان”‭ ‬السابقة‭ ‬في‭ ‬جبل‭ ‬اللويبدة‭. ‬بينما‭ ‬سيكون‭ ‬الموقع‭ ‬الثاني،‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬سيلعب‭ ‬دور‭ ‬الموقع‭ ‬المؤقّت‭ ‬لبرنامج‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬العام،‭ ‬”شارع‭ ‬الثقافة”‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬أنشأته‭ ‬أمانة‭ ‬عمّان‭ ‬في‭ ‬الشميساني‭. ‬صمّم‭ ‬برنامج‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬العام‭ ‬للاستفادة‭ ‬من،‭ ‬وإشراك‭ ‬الموقعين‭ ‬وسياقاتهما‭.‬

ورغم‭ ‬أن‭ ‬الموقعان‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يبدوان‭ ‬مختلفين‭ ‬من‭ ‬ناحية‭ ‬الطابع‭ ‬الحضريّ‭ ‬والأصداء‭ ‬الثقافيّة،‭ ‬إذ‭ ‬يعود‭ ‬تاريخهما،‭ ‬بمصطلحات‭ ‬التاريخ‭ ‬المعاصر‭ ‬لتطوّر‭ ‬عمّان‭ ‬الحضري،‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬التوسّع‭ ‬في‭ ‬ضواحي‭ ‬عمّان‭ ‬المبكّر‭ ‬نسبيّاً‭ ‬عندما‭ ‬بدأت‭ ‬المدينة‭ ‬بتسلّق‭ ‬مرتفعاتها‭ ‬الغربيّة،‭ ‬واستمرّت‭ ‬في‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬نحو‭ ‬المناطق‭ ‬المستوية‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الجنوب‭ ‬الغربيّ‭. ‬يمكن‭ ‬ملاحظة‭ ‬الرابط‭ ‬التاريخي‭ ‬والجغرافي‭ ‬لجبل‭ ‬اللويبدة‭ ‬والشميساني‭ ‬عبر‭ ‬اشتراكهما‭ ‬في‭ ‬منطقة‭ ‬إداريّة‭ ‬واحدة‭ ‬ضمن‭ ‬عمّان‭ ‬الكبرى‭: ‬العبدلي،‭ ‬المنطقة‭ ‬التاسعة‭. ‬وفي‭ ‬ضوء‭ ‬خصائص‭ ‬المنطقتين‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تطوّرت‭ ‬عبر‭ ‬الزّمن،‭ ‬وخاصّة‭ ‬مشاريع‭ ‬إعداة‭ ‬تطوير‭ ‬منطقة‭ ‬العبدلي‭ ‬في‭ ‬المجمل،‭ ‬يمكن‭ ‬النّظر‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬الزمن‭ ‬على‭ ‬أنّه‭ ‬فرصة‭ ‬لاستكشاف،‭ ‬والتفكير‭ ‬في‭ ‬المنطقة‭ ‬وما‭ ‬يمكنها‭ ‬إخبارنا‭ ‬عن‭ ‬المدينة‭ ‬بشكل‭ ‬عام‭.‬

Residency, Working & Library Space

The first two editions of Spring Sessions were based in two different temporary homes, with each year’s program designed to radiate outward from that temporary space to engage its neighbourhood and context through research, interventions and site-specific content. While the 2014 edition was based in the former King Ghazi Hotel on Sa’adeh Street in the historic center of downtown Amman, the 2015 edition moved to The Studio Printmaking Space slightly southwest of downtown along Prince Mohammed Street.

The 2016 program differs from previous editions in unfolding out of two locations instead of one, neither of them in the historic center of downtown. The first of these locations, which will serve as our permanent base and residency space, is the former home of Makan Art Space in Jabal Weibdeh. The second, our occupancy of which will serve as a temporary base for this year’s program, is Greater Amman Municipality’s purpose built Thaqafa/“Culture Street” in the business district of Shmeisani. This year’s program is designed to engage and radiate out from both locations and their contexts.

Though the two settings could hardly seem further apart in terms of urban character and cultural resonance, in important ways they more alike than is obvious at first glance. Both are, in terms of the modern history of Amman’s urban development, related and relatively early suburban expansions as the city began to climb its western elevations and continue gradually toward the flat terrain farther northwest. The geographical and historical linkage of Jabal Weidbeh and Shmeisani is recognised, in fact, by their common official status as administrative sub-districts of the same municipal district: Amman’s 9th district, Al-Abdali. In light of the evolving characters of both neighbourhoods and, especially, the massive redevelopment(s) of Abdali as a whole, this is an exciting time to be exploring and thinking through the district and what it has to tell us about the city at large.

جبل‭ ‬اللويبدة

يقع‭ ‬جبل‭ ‬اللويبدة‭ ‬قريباً‭ ‬من‭ ‬وسط‭ ‬البلد،‭ ‬ومرّ‭ ‬بمراحل‭ ‬تطوّر‭ ‬مبكّرة‭ ‬وجذريّة‭ ‬أكثر‭ ‬ممّا‭ ‬مرّت‭ ‬فيه‭ ‬الشميساني‭. ‬إذ‭ ‬تطورت‭ ‬اللويبدة‭ ‬منذ‭ ‬عشرينيّات‭ ‬القرن‭ ‬الماضي‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬حي‭ ‬سكني‭ ‬راقٍ‭ ‬نسبيّاً،‭ ‬وفي‭ ‬النهاية،‭ ‬لاقت‭ ‬شعبيّة‭ ‬لدى‭ ‬البعثات‭ ‬الدبلوماسيّة‭ ‬الغربيّة،‭ ‬إضافة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬طابعها‭ ‬المسيحي‭ ‬الجدير‭ ‬بالملاحظة‭. ‬ورغم‭ ‬أن‭ ‬عدداً‭ ‬من‭ ‬سكّانها‭ ‬الأصليين‭ ‬هجروها‭ ‬في‭ ‬السبعينيّات‭ ‬والثمانينيّات،‭ ‬بقي‭ ‬حضورهم‭ ‬يتردّد‭ ‬في‭ ‬طابع‭ ‬اللويبدة‭ ‬المعاصر‭. ‬مثّل‭ ‬حضور‭ ‬البعثات‭ ‬الدبلوماسيّة‭ ‬نموذجاً‭ ‬مبكّراً‭ ‬للطريقة‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تتحدّد‭ ‬فيها‭ ‬خصائص‭ ‬اللويبدة‭ ‬عبر‭ ‬استضافتها‭ ‬للمؤسّسات‭ ‬هذه،‭ ‬والتي‭ ‬مالت‭ ‬بشكل‭ ‬متزايد‭ ‬نحو‭ ‬التركيز‭ ‬على‭ ‬الفن‭ ‬والثقافة‭: ‬المتحف‭ ‬الوطني‭ ‬للفنون‭ ‬الجميلة،‭ ‬دارة‭ ‬الفنون،‭ ‬المركز‭ ‬الفرنسي‭ ‬الثقافي،‭ ‬ورابطة‭ ‬الكتّاب‭ ‬الأردنيين‭ ‬وغيرها‭. ‬ورغم‭ ‬أنّها‭ ‬كانت‭ ‬مثالاً‭ ‬للتطوّر‭ ‬الحضري‭ ‬الواضح،‭ ‬إلّا‭ ‬أنه‭ ‬من‭ ‬المهم‭ ‬ملاحظة‭ ‬أن‭ ‬اللويبدة‭ ‬لم‭ ‬تكن‭ ‬توسّعاً‭ ‬جديداً‭ ‬كما‭ ‬كانت‭ ‬عليه‭ ‬الشميساني‭. ‬فعلى‭ ‬سبيل‭ ‬المثال‭: ‬لا‭ ‬تزال‭ ‬آثار‭ ‬لكنيسة‭ ‬بيزنطيّة‭ ‬من‭ ‬القرن‭ ‬السادس‭ ‬الميلادي‭ ‬بنيت‭ ‬على‭ ‬معبد‭ ‬روماني‭ ‬موجودة‭ ‬في‭ ‬دارة‭ ‬الفنون‭.‬

وليس‭ ‬بعيداً‭ ‬عن‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬الآثار،‭ ‬وبتتبّع‭ ‬نفس‭ ‬المسار‭ ‬المطل‭ ‬على‭ ‬أودية‭ ‬وسط‭ ‬البلد،‭ ‬يقع‭ ‬مبنى‭ ‬رقم‭ ‬21‭ ‬في‭ ‬شارع‭ ‬نديم‭ ‬الملّاح،‭ ‬مقر‭ ‬امكانب‭ ‬السابق،‭ ‬والذي‭ ‬سيكون‭ ‬ابتداءً‭ ‬من‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬العام‭ ‬2016‭ ‬مقرّ‭ ‬جلسات‭ ‬الربيع‭ ‬الدائم‭. ‬تمركز‭ ‬امكانب،‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬كان‭ ‬منصّة‭ ‬مستقلة‭ ‬للفنانين‭ ‬والمنتجين‭ ‬الثقافيين‭ ‬والناشطين‭ ‬وأصحاب‭ ‬المبادرات‭ ‬الاجتماعيّة،‭ ‬في‭ ‬المساحة‭ ‬منذ‭ ‬تأسيسه‭ ‬العام‭ ‬2003‭ ‬حتّى‭ ‬نهاية‭ ‬العام‭ ‬2015‭. ‬وعلى‭ ‬مدار‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬الأعوام،‭ ‬لعب‭ ‬امكانب‭ ‬دور‭ ‬المساحة‭ ‬العامة،‭ ‬وأصبح‭ ‬مقروناً‭ ‬بمجتمع‭ ‬عمّان‭ ‬الإبداعي‭ ‬وثقافاته‭ ‬الفرعيّة،‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬جانب‭ ‬علاقته‭ ‬الوثيقة‭ ‬بالحي‭. ‬وتشهد‭ ‬حقيقة‭ ‬إشارة‭ ‬اجلسات‭ ‬الربيعب‭ ‬المستمرّة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬المقر‭ ‬كـبموقع‭ ‬مكان‭ ‬السابقب‭ ‬على‭ ‬أهميّته‭ ‬وعلاقته‭ ‬الوثيقة‭ ‬بالمجتمعات‭ ‬غير‭ ‬الرسميّة‭ ‬المختلفة‭ ‬التي‭ ‬نعتبر‭ ‬جزءاً‭ ‬منها‭.‬

حاليّاً،‭ ‬اقترنت‭ ‬جوانب‭ ‬مختلفة‭ ‬من‭ ‬تاريخ‭ ‬اللويبدة،‭ ‬ومنها‭ ‬ما‭ ‬ينعكس‭ ‬في‭ ‬حقيقة‭ ‬حضورنا‭ ‬هنا،‭ ‬بالخطاب‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬يحذّر‭ ‬من‭ ‬التطهير‭ ‬الطبقي‭ (‬Gentrification‭) ‬الذي‭ ‬تشهده‭ ‬اللويبدة‭. ‬ستكون‭ ‬عمليّة‭ ‬تقييم‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬الخطاب‭ ‬والنّظر‭ ‬فيه‭ ‬هاجساً‭ ‬يتردّد‭ ‬باستمرار‭ ‬في‭ ‬برنامجنا،‭ ‬آملين‭ ‬في‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يؤثّر‭ ‬حضورنا‭ ‬في‭ ‬المنطقة،‭ ‬مع‭ ‬قدرتنا‭ ‬على‭ ‬تجربة‭ ‬ديناميكيتها‭ ‬بشكل‭ ‬لصيق،‭ ‬على‭ ‬إثراء‭ ‬استكشافنا‭ ‬في‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬الصدد‭ ‬كما‭ ‬في‭ ‬مجالات‭ ‬أخرى‭.‬

الشميساني

يتم‭ ‬تحديد‭ ‬موقع‭ ‬جبل‭ ‬اللويبدة‭ ‬بالواديين‭ ‬اللذين‭ ‬يفصلانه‭ ‬عن‭ ‬نمو‭ ‬جبال‭ ‬عمّان‭ ‬الغربيّة‭ ‬الرئيسيّة‭ ‬المبكّر‭. ‬حيث‭ ‬يقع‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬جنوبه‭ ‬الوادي‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬يجري‭ ‬فيه‭ ‬شارع‭ ‬الملك‭ ‬الحسين‭ (‬أو‭ ‬شارع‭ ‬السّلط‭)‬،‭ ‬والذي‭ ‬يفصله‭ ‬عن‭ ‬جبل‭ ‬الحسين‭. ‬وبموازاة‭ ‬حدوده‭ ‬الجنوبيّة،‭ ‬يقع‭ ‬الوادي‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬يجري‭ ‬فيه‭ ‬شارع‭ ‬الأمير‭ ‬محمّد‭ ‬ووادي‭ ‬صقرة،‭ ‬واللذان‭ ‬يفصلانه‭ ‬عن‭ ‬جبل‭ ‬عمّان‭. ‬وإذا‭ ‬انتقلنا‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الغرب‭ ‬على‭ ‬خط‭ ‬وهميّ‭ ‬بين‭ ‬هذين‭ ‬الواديين،‭ ‬نجد‭ ‬أنّنا‭ ‬نتحرّك‭ ‬عبر‭ ‬اللويبدة‭ ‬والعبدلي،‭ ‬وبأقل‭ ‬من‭ ‬كيلومترين،‭ ‬نصل‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬مركز‭ ‬الشميساني‭. ‬في‭ ‬الواقع،‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬ما‭ ‬أنجزته‭ ‬المدينة‭ ‬بين‭ ‬عشرينيّات‭ ‬وستينيّات‭ ‬القرن‭ ‬الماضي‭: ‬حيث‭ ‬لم‭ ‬يكن‭ ‬باستطاع‭ ‬أحدنا‭ ‬اتّهام‭ ‬أحد‭ ‬مروّجي‭ ‬الأحياء‭ ‬الراقية‭ ‬إن‭ ‬أراد‭ ‬إعادة‭ ‬تقديم‭ ‬الشميساني‭ ‬على‭ ‬أنّها‭ “‬غرب‭ ‬اللويبدة‭”‬،‭ ‬بالكذب‭-‬بغض‭ ‬النّظر‭ ‬عن‭ ‬انطباعنا‭ ‬عنه‭.‬

برزت‭ ‬الشميساني‭ ‬كأحدث‭ ‬إضافات‭ ‬المدينة‭ ‬من‭ ‬المناطق‭ ‬السكنيّة‭ ‬الراقية‭ ‬في‭ ‬ستينيّات‭ ‬وسبعينيّات‭ ‬القرن‭ ‬الماضي‭ ‬بمساعدة‭ ‬قربها‭ ‬من‭ ‬العبدلي‭ ‬التي‭ ‬استضافت‭ ‬المكاتب‭ ‬الحكوميّة‭ ‬الرئيسيّة،‭ ‬والطرف‭ ‬الغربي‭ ‬المرموق‭ ‬لشارع‭ ‬زهران،‭ ‬حيث‭ ‬تقع‭ ‬الآن‭ ‬دواوير‭ ‬الثالث‭ ‬والرابع‭ ‬والخامس‭. ‬في‭ ‬نهاية‭ ‬المطاف،‭ ‬احتضنت‭ ‬الشميساني‭ ‬منطقة‭ ‬اقتصاديّة‭ ‬مهمّة‭ ‬عكست‭ ‬النمو‭ ‬المتزايد‭ ‬لفيالق‭ ‬البدلات‭ ‬الرسميّة‭ ‬ذات‭ ‬التعليم‭ ‬العالي‭. ‬وتمَثّل‭ ‬جزء‭ ‬من‭ ‬التطوّر‭ ‬الأخير‭ ‬في‭ ‬بداية‭ ‬انتقال‭ ‬عمليّات‭ ‬بنوك‭ ‬المدينة‭ ‬الرئيسيّة‭ ‬بعيداً‭ ‬عن‭ ‬وسط‭ ‬البلد،‭ ‬لتصبح‭ ‬الشميساني،‭ ‬وحتى‭ ‬الآن‭ ‬كما‭ ‬هو‭ ‬مفترض،‭ ‬مركز‭ ‬عمّان‭ ‬المالي‭.‬

ازدادت‭ ‬حيويّة‭ ‬المنطقة‭ ‬باعتبارها‭ ‬مركز‭ ‬المدينة‭ ‬الاجتماعي،‭ ‬واستضافتها‭ ‬لأحدث‭ ‬المطاعم‭ ‬والبارات‭ ‬والمقاهي‭ ‬والنوادي‭ ‬الليليّة‭ ‬التي‭ ‬فترت‭ ‬وتيرتها‭ ‬في‭ ‬النصف‭ ‬الأوّل‭ ‬من‭ ‬التسعينيّات‭- ‬فترة‭ ‬النمو‭ ‬العصريّ‭ ‬وتحوّل‭ ‬المدينة‭ ‬والبلد‭ ‬ككل‭. ‬وفي‭ ‬نهاية‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬العقد،‭ ‬كانت‭ ‬المدينة‭ ‬قد‭ ‬امتدّت‭ ‬في‭ ‬كل‭ ‬اتّجاه،‭ ‬وطغت‭ ‬موجات‭ ‬التطوّرات‭ ‬الاجتماعيّة‭ ‬والحضريّة‭ ‬على‭ ‬الشميساني‭ ‬بشكل‭ ‬حاسم‭ ‬منعها‭ ‬من‭ ‬اعتبارها‭ ‬منطقة‭ “‬حديثة‭” ‬أو‭ ‬حتّى‭ ‬منطقة‭ ‬ضواحي،‭ ‬شبيهةً‭ ‬بالعبدلي‭ ‬ومناطق‭ ‬أخرى‭ ‬بخضوعها‭ ‬لخطاب‭ ‬التجديد‭ ‬والمداخلات‭ ‬الحضريّة‭. ‬وما‭ ‬كانت‭ ‬تحتاجه،‭ ‬بالطبع،‭ ‬هو‭ “‬إعادة‭ ‬التطوير‭”.‬

وفي‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬السياق،‭ ‬إضافة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬مبادرات‭ ‬طفت‭ ‬بدوافع‭ ‬مماثلة،‭ ‬قرّرت‭ ‬أمانة‭ ‬عمّان‭ ‬الكبرى‭ ‬تحويل‭ ‬شارع‭ ‬كان‭ ‬يسمّى‭ “‬11‭ ‬آب‭” ‬إلى‭ ‬ساحة‭ ‬للمشاة‭ ‬والمركبات‭ ‬سمّيت‭ ‬لاحقاً‭ ‬بـ‭”‬شارع‭ ‬الثقافة‭”. ‬شهد‭ ‬المشروع،‭ ‬المستوحى‭ ‬من‭ ‬تسمية‭ ‬عمّان‭ ‬بـ‭”‬مدينة‭ ‬الثقافة‭ ‬العربيّة‭” ‬في‭ ‬العام‭ ‬2002ـ‭ ‬كمشروع‭ ‬تعاوني‭ ‬بين‭ ‬اليونيسكو‭ ‬وجامعة‭ ‬الدول‭ ‬العربيّة،‭ ‬تحويل‭ ‬الشّارع‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬تبلغ‭ ‬مساحته‭ ‬360‭ ‬متراً‭ ‬مربّعاً‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬ساحة‭ ‬للمشاة‭ ‬بعرض‭ ‬15‭ ‬متر‭ ‬تحتوي‭ ‬على‭ ‬مساحات‭ ‬عرض‭ ‬فنيّة‭ ‬أنشأت‭ ‬تحت‭ ‬مستوى‭ ‬الشارع‭. ‬صمّم‭ ‬المشروع،‭ ‬في‭ ‬الأساس،‭ ‬المحاط‭ ‬بمؤسّسات‭ ‬ماليّة‭ ‬ومطاعم‭ ‬وجبات‭ ‬سريعة‭ ‬ومقاهٍ‭ ‬تقدّم‭ ‬الأرجيلة‭ ‬تقع‭ ‬في‭ ‬قلب‭ ‬الشميساني‭ ‬التجاري،‭ ‬بهدف‭ ‬تنشيط‭ ‬المنطقة‭ ‬عبر‭ ‬المساحات‭ ‬العامّة‭ ‬والبرامج‭ ‬الثقافيّة‭. ‬ورغم‭ ‬غموض‭ ‬تحقّق‭ ‬منافعه‭ ‬العامة‭ ‬وأهميّته‭ ‬الثقافيّة،‭ ‬إلّا‭ ‬أن‭ ‬شارع‭ ‬الثقافة‭ ‬استمر‭ ‬بالتغذّي‭ ‬على‭ ‬سمعته‭ ‬الأساسيّة،‭ ‬واستمرّت‭ ‬الاقتراحات‭ ‬لتحسينه‭.‬

وكقاعدة‭ ‬ننطلق‭ ‬منها‭ ‬لاستكشاف‭ ‬تساؤلات‭ ‬الثقافة‭ ‬والمساحات‭ ‬العامة‭ ‬والهويّة‭ ‬المدنيّة،‭ ‬يدعو‭ ‬تبنّينا‭ ‬لشارع‭ ‬الثقافة‭ ‬مباشرة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬طرح‭ ‬النقاشات‭ ‬الحيّة‭ ‬حول‭ ‬مدينة‭ ‬في‭ ‬تغيّر‭ ‬دائم‭.‬

Jabal Weibdeh

Jabal Weibdeh lies closer to Amman’s center and was an earlier and in some ways a more organic development than Shmeisani. Growing gradually over the course of the 1920s into a relatively upscale residential neighbourhood, Weibdeh eventually saw a period of popularity among western diplomatic missions and a noteworthy Christian profile. Though many of these original tenants left the neighbourhood over the course of the 1970s and 1980s, their presences continue to resonate in its contemporary character. The presence of the diplomatic missions was also perhaps the earliest example of how much Weibdeh’s character has been determined by its host of institutional tenants, which have tended increasingly towards an arts-and-culture focus: the National Gallery of Fine Arts, Darat al Funun, the French Cultural Center and the Jordanian Writers Federation, among others. Though it was a clearly suburban development, it is nonetheless important to note that the neighbourhood was not—taking a longer view of things—a new area in the way Shmeisani was. The remains of a sixth-century Byzantine church on the foundations of a Roman temple are still visible in the courtyard of Darat al Funun, for example.

Not far from these remains and along the same ridge overlooking Amman’s central valleys, lies 21 Nadim Mallah Street—the former home of Makan Art Space and, as of 2016, our new permanent home. Makan Art Space, which was an independent platform for artists, cultural producers, activists and community initiatives, occupied the space from its foundation in 2003 to the end of 2015. Over the course of those twelve years, it served as a liminal public space and, alongside the neighbourhood as whole, became closely associated with Amman’s creative community and related sub-cultures. The mere fact that Spring Sessions continues to refer to the space as “the former home of Makan” testifies to its importance and relevance to the various informal communities of which we are a part.

Different aspects of Weibdeh’s history—some of them reflected in our own presence there—have been linked to and lamented as parts of an increasing discourse of alarm over the neighbourhood’s perceived gentrification. Evaluating this discourse and thinking it through will be a recurring concern throughout our program. We hope that our presence in the neighbourhood and ability to experience its dynamics first hand will enrich our explorations in this regard as it does in others.

Shmeisani

Jabal Weibdeh is defined by the two valleys that flank and separate it from the other major western “jabals” of Amman’s early growth. To its north runs the valley now marked by King Hussein (or As-Salt) Street, on the other side of which lies Jabal Hussein. Roughly parallel along its southern side lies the somewhat longer valley now traced by Prince Mohammed and Wadi Saqra Streets, on the other side of which rises Jabal Amman. If you move westward along an imaginary line between these two valleys, you will find yourself moving through all of Weibdeh and Abdali and, in less than two kilometers, directly into the heart of Shmeisani. Between the 1920’s and 1960’s, in fact, this is exactly what the city did. A hip neighbourhood promoter who wanted to rebrand Shmeisani as “West Weibdeh” could not—whatever else we might think of him—be accused of lying.

Shmeisani’s emergence as the city’s latest upscale residential extension over the course of the 1960’s and 1970’s was mediated by its proximity to both Abdali’s host of major governmental offices and the increasingly prestigious western end of Zahran Street between what are now the Third, Fourth and Fifth circles. Eventually it developed a major business district reflecting the city’s growing corps of educated white-collar professionals. It was as part of this last development that the city’s banks began to shift their major operations away from downtown and Shmeisani assumed its still-current status as Amman’s financial district.

The neighbourhood’s vigour as the city’s social hotspot and home to its most fashionable restaurants, bars, cafes and clubs waned over the course the first half of the 1990’s—a period of epochal growth and transformation for city and country alike. By the end of the decade the city had sprawled in every direction, and Shmeisani had been so decisively eclipsed by newer social and urban focal points that it ceased to register as new or suburban at all. It became, like Abdali and many others, subject to an emerging discourse of urban revival and intervention. What it needed, of course, was “redevelopment.”

It was in this context and alongside a slew of similarly motivated initiatives, that the Greater Amman Municipality decided to turn the street formerly known as August 11 into the pedestrian/ vehicular venue called “Culture Street”. Officially inspired by the Arab League/UNESCO’s designation of Amman as Arab Cultural Capital in 2002, the project saw the remaking of the street’s 360-meter long median into a 15-meter wide pedestrian plaza with a series of sunken gallery spaces down the middle. Surrounded by the financial institutions, fast-food restaurants and shisha cafe’s of Shmeisani’s business district, the project was designed to revitalise the neighbourhood with a double dose of public space and cultural programming. The realities of its public utility and cultural relevance have been more ambiguous, however, as its contentious reputation and suggestions for improvement continue to attest.

As a base out of which to explore questions of culture, public space and civic identity, our adoption of “Culture Street” promises to insert Spring Sessions 2016 directly into the living conversations of a changing city.

 

Advertisements