East Wahdat Upgrade: Rebuild the community through street interventions

East Wahdat Upgrade: Rebuild the Community

“East Wahdat was the most underdeveloped region in Amman”

Jolyon Lesile commented on the community and site context of the upgrading program in his Technical Review 1992, Aga Khan Architectural Award.

It is crystal clear that the region was going through very devastating conditions during the first two influx of refugee. Located at the immediate neighbor of the UN “New Camp” refugee shelter, the community was flooded with mixed culture. The majority of the populations are Palestinian who flee from the war. Although they share similar cultural background, language and religion, the unskilled refugees were facing very tough situations of not fitting in the community (Hasan 1989). Most of the families relied on one working family member in which the average annual income per family was up to $220 USD (Lesile, 1992) . There were serious issue of extreme poverty and lacking sense of belonging.

The East Whadat Plan was more than seeing the urban as a technical or scientific problem that the streets, infrastructure and robust houses would solve all the problems (just like what Haussmann and Robert Moses think). The World Bank together with the architects were consciously creating the connection and building a rigid community in East Whadat.

P.68, Aga Khan Architecture Award 1992, East Whadat Upgrading Programme Report
P.68, Aga Khan Architecture Award 1992, East Whadat Upgrading Programme Report

They started from the housing design by asking questions of how the architecture should respond to the urban fabrics. There are articulations and efforts of designing the entrance, building the connection and creating threshold space between houses and the streets.

P.69, Aga Khan Architecture Award 1992, East Whadat Upgrading Programme Report
P.69, Aga Khan Architecture Award 1992, East Whadat Upgrading Programme Report

The proposal also covers small urban intervention and street beautification works in street corners. The injections of various kinds of communal facilities ranging from playground, hospitals and schools. It was clear that the World Bank had no interest in creating grand avenue or gigantic infrastructure just as many frontier metropolis was doing at that period.  From the plan and the scale of the street, we can see the pedestrian experience was at a higher priority. There are series of footpath analysis to assess the walk-ability in East Whadat which is very reasonable in extreme poverty context.

The plan was proposed by a seemingly very bureaucratic and monetary-based organizations. However, the awareness of rebuilding the community is even higher than plans which are done by architects and urban planners. The design of those street corner sitting-out area as well as those threshold spaces in front of the houses carried a very strong sensitivity of holding a thread to connect those refugee houses together. The way that of those spaces designed echoes with Jane Jacobs “Eye on the street” theory about the social community which was built within the realm of architecture. The idea of creating relationships among different households through the architectural articulations really hit the targeted group of tenants which are refugees.

Reference:

Habitat, 1999, Informal Settlement Upgrading: The Demand for Capacity Building in Six Pilot Cities – Amman, Ankara, Caracas, Concepción, Ibadan and Nkayi, 334 p.

World Bank, 1980, Jordan Urban Renewal Project Report

Lesile, Joylon , 1992, Technical Review Summary 1989: East Wahdat Upgrading Program, Aga Khan Architecture Award. The Aga Khan Award for Archtitecture.

Hasan, Arif. 1989. Technical Review Summary 1989: East Wahdat Upgrading Program, Aga Khan Architecture Award. The Aga Khan Award for Archtitecture.

Jacobs, Jane, 1961,  The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Architecture

1 Comment on “East Wahdat Upgrade: Rebuild the community through street interventions

  1. It is very interesting to see the similarities of concepts of how buildings connect to the streetscapes such as inserting playgrounds, hospitals and schools. These facilities are also necessary in developed cities, perhaps it is the way these activities are executed and connected by foot that makes these streetscapes different. The world bank is definitely a good source to a more modest and necessity approach. It would be interesting to see different approaches on this topic especially from Jane Jacobs.

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