East Wahdat Upgrade/ Creation of Homes and Un-slumming: Materials and Construction Technologies
In the Islamic World, the choice of materials and construction technologies of houses reflects greatly to their concept of homes as private, modest, and hospitable places. Before the implementation of the East Wahdat Upgrading Plan, the area was congested with substandard corrugated iron sheds, with poor living condition and no access to modern basic facilities, which could be considered slums. The reasons of using corrugated irons with simple construction methods were, apart from the significantly low construction time and cost, that the residents did not consider East Wahdat to be their homes. It was reported that some of the refugees in other informal settlement area, such as Jabal Ali, Northeast of Amman, refused the urban upgrading programme due to the fact that they were afraid the upgrade would convert them into the permanent residents of that place (Ababsa 2010). However, as times goes by, and with the introduction of full Jordanian citizenship among the Palestinian refugees, more and more residents in East Wahdat started to consider the place as their second homes (Pilder 2011).
In view of the gradual acceptance of the Jordanian-Palestinian citizenship, un-slumming of the East Wahdat area began during the implementation of the East Wahdat Upgrading Programme in terms of construction technologies and material choices that led to a feeling of home. Houses structured with reinforced concrete frame while partitioned by infill of concrete blocks were common in Amman around that time. However, the demonstration home built by the Urban Development Department (UDD) featured load-bearing block-works instead of concrete frame due to the considerably low construction cost. It was rejected by the residents promptly for two reasons: firstly, the load-bearing block-works reduced flexibility greatly, which was in contrast with their ideal of having a hospitable home; and secondly, the construction methods were not familiar to them. Since the project emphasized on local participation and self-construction, it would be very difficult to be implemented (Leslie 1992). One could easily note that the residents chose the reinforced concrete frames, though being more expensive, out of their customs and their familiarity of the construction technologies. The fact that the residents could participate in the upgrading process created a stronger sense of community to that place, which initiates the development of a feeling of homes.
On the choice of materials, they were essentially local. Though the materials of the structural frames and the walls were chosen by the UDD, which were reinforced concrete and concrete blocks respectively, the external finishing was intended to be customizable by the users. As it came off from the upgrading programme, all the facades were rendered plain white, if not beige, with normal plasterwork (Leslie 1992). However, as a display of cultural identity and the expression of individuality, most of the projected elements from the façade were painted in blues, oranges or terra-cotta. Some of the façades were also stone cladded for the middle-income family. This resembled a piling of different individual cubes against the hillside, and created a spectacular view of Islamic World. It was interesting to note that the customizability of building materials would actually attract people to stay and generated a sense of home.
According to Jane Jacobs, the key to un-slumming was to stop people from leaving the slum too fast, and that to create a strong sense of community would keep the people in place. In accordance with this statement, the creation of home feeling in East Wahdat, with the emphasis on building materials and construction technologies for the Palestinian refugees seemed to be successful in un-slumming the slums.
Ababsa, Myriam. 2010. “The Evolution of Upgrading Policies in Amman Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development.” Amman Jordanie.
Jacobs, Jane, 1961, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Leslie, Jolyon. 1992. 1992 Technical Review Summary: East Wahdat Upgrading Programme. Amman: Urban Development Department.
Pilder, Andrew David. 2011. Urbanization and Identity: The Building of Amman in the Twentieth Century. Oxford, Ohio: Department of History, Miami University.