Highlights From The Third Edition Of Amman Design Week

BY Ayesha Sohail Shehmir Shaikh / Oct 8 2019 / 13:30 PM

This year the immersive design week highlights endless possibilities across the realm of art and design

Highlights From The Third Edition Of Amman Design Week
Courtesy of the designers and Amman Design Week
An installation view of the Hangar Exhibition at Amman Design Week

Over the past few years, Amman Design Week, an initiative launched by Her Majesty Queen Rania, has showcased a plethora of art and design pieces with over 200 designers taking part in the prestigious fair in the capital of Jordan. This year for its third edition and under the creative direction of Rana Beiruti, the nine-day program is brimming with talks, events, workshops, exhibitions and musical performances.

The Hangar Exhibition, under the theme of ‘possibilities', curated by  Noura Al Sayeh-Holtrop, is home to a widespread range of innovative works by over 50 designers hailing from the Middle East and North Africa. “What was interesting about curating the show under the theme of possibilities was that there was just this shift in perception - changing the situation from one where design needs to address problematic issues to one where you just take the possibilities within the realm of what’s available today,” says Sayeh-Holtrop.

AAU Anastas. Amoud. 2019. Stone architectural ruins

Courtesy of the artists and Amman Design Week

“It was really interesting for us to see what the designers were making on their own, despite the difficult economic, political and social situations [in Jordan]. One of the important things we tried to enhance in the exhibition was to highlight links between designers and the synergies that could exist across the Arab world.”

Large-scale installations have been specially commissioned for the exhibition, showcasing the shared ideas and connections between designers in the region. “The exhibition is quite regional this year, showing similarities in works from Morrocco and Kuwait to Egypt and Lebanon,” says Sayeh-Holtrop.

Atlal Collective. Soils of Jordan. 2019. Soil and metal

Courtesy of the designers and Amman Design Week

What immediately captures visitors upon entrance is Amoud (2019), a work by Palestinian architectural firm AAU Anastas made from a collection of stone architectural ruins. The self-standing column evokes the possibilities of reusing elements of stone for construction, addressing the effect it could have on contemporary architecture. “We’re very, very happy because the designers this year really pushed in a way that I haven’t seen before,” says Beiruti. “In our third year, we’re starting to see this maturity in terms of the way people deal with material and the idea of design in the future.”

On the right is an edible work by Omar Sartawi, a replica of the Ein Ghazal statue discovered in Jordan and currently on view at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Seduction by Beirut-born artist Najla El Zein, made of Iranian red travertine, is another highlight. The work depicts the emotional relationship of two people falling slowly into an embrace.

An edible work by Omar Sartawi. 2019

Courtesy of the artist and Amman Design Week

Soils of Jordan (2019) by Atlal Collective is designed to last the duration of the exhibition. Comprising nine columns of soils found in various parts of Jordan, the interactive installation invites visitors to touch the work until it crumbles. “Each of the soils have a different chemical composition but we upped the dosage on the clay so  the columns will be easier to erode and crumble as people touch them,” says Ibn Talib, a member of Atlal Collective.

“We’re representing how earth and architecture are related and how using soil and mud is the most sustainable method of building because you can essentially build from the material you’re standing on and once you’re done with the structure, it will eventually disappear to its initial state.”

Ahmad Jarrar and Rasha Jarrar. Kitchen Appliances. 2019. Carboard, honeycomb board and wood

Courtesy of the 
designers and Amman Design Week

Of note upstairs is Kitchen Appliances (2019) by brother and sister duo Ahmad Jarrar and Rasha Jarrar, made of cardboard, honeycomb board and wood. The works showcase a sustainable and affordable way to entertain children in today's digital age. “The materials used are all recyclable, including the wooden knobs which were made out of bleached wood and are not coloured, to reduce the chemicals applied and to ensure that the material stays biodegradable,” say Ahmad and Rasha. “A big part of [the work] is to teach children to repair their stuff and not simply throw it away.”

Over at the Student Exhibition is a large showcase of inspiring works by 33 students from across 13 schools and universities. On view is Hand of Humanity, a prosthetic hand made by Mamoun Khasawneh from the International Academy in Amman, mentored by Jordan-based design studio Twelve Degrees.  “This hand is different from all prosthetic hands in the Jordanian market because it’s affordable and it’s mainly targeted towards the youth,” says Khasawneh. “As children grow up, their arms and body sizes change and because this is an affordable alternative, kids can always change to a new size when needed until they eventually decide on the final size.”

Najla El Zein. Seduction, pair 06. 2019. Iranian red travertine

Courtesy of the artist and Amman Design Week

Another highlight of the exhibition is Petra VR by Mansour Tabbaa from Amman Baccalaureate School, an immersive VR journey through Petra. “I would like to expand the use of my product for the purpose of promoting Jordan's tourism, as well as an educational tool for students who have never visited Petra,” says Tabbaa.

The Crafts District in Jabal Amman houses work by 37 exhibitors, aiming to preserve traditional Jordanian crafts from embroidery and weaving to pottery and ceramics. “We wanted people to change their perspectives of crafts,” says Liyan Jabi, one of the curators of the Crafts District. “It’s not just about the manual work that you see, it’s about the development of the materials - it’s documenting the journey of crafts in the Levant region, not just Jordan.”

The Material Innovation section includes Besat (2019) by Tasmeem  l ll Amani Tabaza, an urban module inspired by Bedouin rug patterns seen in Jordan, made of waste construction, steel bars, black acrylic, wood and fabric. The work is a representation of a sustainable way to entertain while making a positive contribution to society and preserving heritage.

"I think what's really valuable to me, especially in a country poor in resources like Jordan, is that designers have been able to innovate within very limited means and they can turn something like sand into this paradise," says Beiruti. "I think that is something to celebrate in Jordan - it's not about these massive crystal chandeliers, it's about this raw engagement with design and the landscape of the earth and I hope that comes through."

Amman Design Week is on show from 4 October until 12 October 2019