All over the city, forgotten and abandoned spaces have been revived for the festival. Raghadan terminal, which was built as a tourist hub but remained largely empty since its opening in 2007 in part due to lack of investment and poor planning, has been turned into a craft market selling, among other things, bean bags made from used plastic bags, phone cases featuring Palestinian embroidery, and slick notebooks printed on recycled paper. The Hangar, too, was originally built in the 1930s to house electricity generators and redeveloped into a public exhibition space last year.

The Glass Shaper by Ahmad Jallouk showcases decades of work by an ordinary Jordanian with a passion for craft.
The Glass Shaper by Ahmad Jallouk showcases decades of work by an ordinary Jordanian with a passion for craft.
Image: Bethan Staton

This blurring of tradition, aesthetics and daily routine reflects modern Jordanian design, in which contemporary creators and traditional makers both inspire and challenge each other. Limits on resources and manufacturing, along with the shared geopolitical context of a changing Middle East have created a tight design community, Al Hiyari says.

One of Al Hiyari’s favorite pieces is The Glass Shaper, a pyramid of glassware stacked before a mirror that winks back refracted light. Its creator, Ahmad Jallouk, has run a small underwear shop in downtown Amman since the 1970s, and isn’t formally trained as a designer. But he spends his spare time turning discarded wine bottles, glasses, and even the bases of hookah pipes into unique pieces of art.

“I love every one of them,” Jallouk says of his creations.

Though the city’s first Design Week is fleeting—the watermelon stacks have already been dismantled, the fruit loaded onto trucks and sold at market—Al Hiyari hopes it will foster a collaboration that lasts long after the final installation comes down.

“Design is not only something restricted to designers,” he says. “It’s collaborative work, by people from different disciplines, and the results of these collaborations are the strongest. They’re the works that have meaning and soul.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article described architect Sahel Al Hiyari as the main curator of Amman Design Week. He is one of several curators of the event.

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