How do you get an entire city, no, an entire country to talk about design? To learn how it evolved from art, culture, and an innate need to solve problems? You host a week-long event open to all, housing some of the greatest design talent from 11 countries, talking about design as not just a profession, but also as a way of life.
With the theme “Design Moves Life Moves Design”, Amman witnessed its second Design Week in two years, seeing a footfall of more than 89,000 people as designers from countries like Bahrain, Morocco, Palestine, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Netherlands, Norway, Italy and USA gathered to display their works to show how life can impact a designer, and how their designs in turn can impact life!
This year’s Amman Design Week was in every sense bigger, but more nuclear. Rather than having events at three different locations across the city, the festival saw everything happen in the town’s creative hub, AKA the Hangar and the Ras Al Ein Gallery. With just a 40ft road separating the two venues, patrons could visit all the exhibits in a single day, spending much more time at the event. With incredible design works within the Hangar, along with a Student Exhibition, to a Crafts District filled with indigenous crafts and handicrafts on display and for sale, as well as a Cultural Plaza for talks on design, the Amman Design Week left no stone unturned.
We first look at the Hangar. An iconic building in its own right, the Hangar used to be Amman’s Power and Electricity Hub. After the city started expanding, the Hangar was decommissioned and shut down. It now houses a different kind of spark (if you know what I mean!), as designers gather to showcase their creative abilities and techniques while also conveying a variety of messages. With more exhibits than the last time, the Hangar’s curator, Ahmad Humeid had to be extremely selective, adhering to the theme but also showcasing diversity. With massive installations on the outside to attract one’s attention, and a wide selection of design work on the inside, the Hangar provided what can only be described as an accurate image of how talented the designers in the middle east are, and how this talent can be harnessed to truly uplift lives in and around the area.
Right across the road from the Hangar was Amman Design Week’s pop-up Crafts District. A part that showcased handicrafts in a commercial light, while even having a dedicated space for reviving dying crafts from within and outside Jordan. What you see below is a look at the Cultural Plaza, a place to conduct design seminars, held below a rather beautiful bamboo strip ceiling, and the Craft of Making program, curated by designer Shermine Sawalha, a place that revived crafts like Bedouin felt-making, traditional Syrian Arabesque Mosaic making, Jordanian Stone Mosaic making, and swordsmithing. If the Hangar showcased the future of design, the Crafts District helped give it context in many ways.
We end our tour of the Amman Design Week on a happy note. With news that only months back, the Jordanian Government withdrew its ban on 3D Printers, the country rushes to embrace the technology. Designers Sahar Madanat and Sara Bdeir talk about how industrial processes integral to design like metal fabrication, electronic integration, and plastic molding haven’t really caught on in the Middle East (forcing most designers to take up more traditional practices like furniture or textile design or to practice abroad), but the future looks bright as designers are working hard to bring talent as well as industries to the country, with the legalization of 3D printing just being the very beginning of what I can imagine is a very bright future for Design and Life in Amman and Jordan. So how do you get an entire country to talk about design? You do it the way Amman Design Week did it!
Image Credits © Amman Design Week 2017 & Yanko Design.