This started as an argument between my friend, Michel, and I while driving past the Le Royal one day: Why is it we can’t imagine New York without the Guggenheim or the Rockefeller, yet we can easily imagine Amman without the Le Royal and the twin Jordan Gate towers? Why is that most, and I stress on most, Ammani Architects reject the current contemporary iconic discourse of the city. What makes an icon? How come all nation take pride in their tallest buildings, and we don’t? What is it that really..really.. makes us proud as residents of Amman?
In spite of the interlocking, inter-winded, multi-dimensional strata that make up our city, most people perceive Amman as the city made up of endless mountains of mundane modern white stone boxes. Thus, so to break the redundancy, and create a sense of place, in addition to the much needed pride and power, big buildings are sought after. After all we are a nation that appreciates the big.
A transformation was needed! A remote utopian vision of what the city should look like was the reference, to become more contiguous to our neighboring plastic metropolitan cities. The Burj, the Iskan building mutations started growing, and later on the King Abdullah Mosque and aliens like Le Royal and last, never the least, 6th circle towers. No one can defend their existence; one has to simply live with them!
They exist! And their design formula: hulk-ish scale, strange unique geometry, distant metaphor, uncomfortable presence and a vague program. Who cares what’s it for anyway! Designed so not to fit.
The 6th Circle Jordan Gate Towers that was built on the site of one of the very few vanishing public gardens in the city. The screwed a residential neighborhood is a great example to the hefty price people pay. Although still in construction phase, it succeeded in creating a dead zone around it, in addition to ignoring major problems of traffic and infrastructure in addition to few more serious environmental issues.
Another example, Le Royal: the Iraqi babel tower manifested in Amman. Even though stone was used, rather than a glass envelope, to blends with the adjacent mountain and its tiny white stone block, yet its geometry failed it. The Le Royal did everything right; but it stayed an alien!
I understand that cities are not monolithic, especially boundary-less cities like Amman. They act as complex living organisms; they interact and survive mutations within their fabric. However, we have the talents of embedding the huge in a way to eat the neighborhoods around it and takes over them.
I’m not criticizing icons, I’m criticizing the how and where and when and what they represent. Why do we build them here and there, for postcards sake?
Will we ever be able to connect to these icons on a human scale?