Rainbow Street (Abu Baker Al Siddeeq) Urban Regeneration Scheme
Client : Greater Amman Municipality (GAM)
Location : Rainbow Street, Amman- Jordan
Year : 2006- 2008
Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) is embarking on a milestone project centering on developing a Metropolitan Growth Master Plan for the City. The Rainbow Street Urban Regeneration Project is but one of many projects that correspond with GAM’s new vision for a City that not only celebrates and grants voice to its distinctive urban and social heritage and places, but a one that is more pedestrian friendly and a City that aspires to create more public spaces for its citizens.
Rainbow Street in Spatial and Temporal Contexts
The Street enjoys a central location between East and West Amman and is well connected to the Downtown Area (Wast al Balad) through a magnificent web of specialty Ammani Steps of memory. The area around Rainbow Street is one of Amman’s oldest residential neighborhoods and is blessed with a variety of architectural resources representing a testimonial to the evolution of architecture in the City. Furthermore, the area is blessed with a diverse mixed use urban neighborhood with corner shops, retail, cultural centers, residential, religious buildings, cinemas, libraries & research centers, literary cafes, ethnic and local restaurants, and special environmentally conscious institutions.
The 1960s and 70s witnessed the emergence of an active public sphere in Rainbow Street where urban growth in Amman was also affected by the influx of Palestinians to Jordan after 1967 and also the oil boom boosted the emergence of new urban centers (Other than in Downtown Amman) at the residential hills flanking the downtown of which Rainbow Street was a major one.
By the early 1970s, book shops, cinemas, banks, and cultural centers were opened in Rainbow Street which took its name after Rainbow Cinema. During the 1980s and parts of the 90s decade, the Street and the area lost part of its symbolic and economic value due to competitions from newer developed areas in Amman; yet Rainbow Street and for the past 10 years or so, is witnessing a subtle, yet significant comeback. Rainbow is becoming popular again with a booming café culture, craft shops, bookshops, and the thirty-something clientele; and until now, and fortunately, it kept (Until now) its mixed-use (Residential-Commercial) character.
The current popularity of the area attracted large-scale investors who saw in the area around Rainbow a golden investment opportunity and had started buying properties in the area since more than 5 years ago. It’s crucial to critically understand and expose the fact that neoliberal ideological-discursive rhetoric (Preserving the Jabal Amman Area’s Historic monuments and place) conceals fundamentally exclusionary and exploitative social relation (Out migration of stable low-income families (Mostly tenants) from the area).
Project’s Urban Positioning and Conceptual Thoughts
The Project’s objectives were to create more public spaces that are more pedestrian friendly in the area while enhancing, protecting, and conserving Amman’s distinctive urban heritage present in the area. Furthermore, the Project thrives to sustain the current social mix in the area (Counteracting the current neoliberal transformations and urban restructuring). The Project was based on a careful design of 8 urban nodes along the street each with a distinctive character that is emerging from existing realties and dynamics.
Conserving, enhancing, and complementing the qualities of place while maintaining diversity and enhancing a sense of place by minimal intervention was a main desired objective of the Project. Another Project objective was to create a Place that is more inclusive and to encourage an active public life and hopefully a public sphere. The project delivered to the local community of the area an enjoyable pedestrian-friendly promenade along the stretch of the Street of about 1.5 km with designed urban furniture, panoramic lookouts, urban decks and cultural landscapes.
The project delivered to the local community of the area an enjoyable pedestrian promenade along the stretch of the Street of about 1.5 km with designed urban furniture, panoramic lookouts, urban decks and cultural landscapes that will be used and enjoyed by all Ammani’s of different background and by visitors to this City that we all hold dearly: Amman
At the scale of urban design, the Project addressed several urban nodes along the Street with the major objective, through an approach of minimal intervention in most cases, of providing more inclusive public spaces in the City.
A visitor to Rainbow Street starts with the First Circle Garden which serves as an introduction to the Street and is composed of different levels easily accessed from the side walk.
The second urban node lays at the intersection of the Street with Rainbow Cinema (A major cultural attraction that is being rehabilitated and conserved to serve as a main Cinematheque and cultural hub).
The third node is located at Arwa Bint al Hareth School where the School wall is exposed to celebrate and show more of the traditional Ammani early houses. At the opposite side more shaded outdoor seating is provided for the Jerusalem Falafel Place. The fourth node is very nearby and represents another public garden (Locally called “Sarvees”).
The urban solution is simple and is based on creating a natural extension of the side walk into the garden. Located at mid-point in the middle of the distance between the First Circle and the end of Rainbow Street; lies a major interesting urban node which is the main panoramic lookout added on top of the roof of an old house. This natural extension of the side walk creates an urban deck with a unique view of Jabal Weibdeh and the Citadel of Amman. Even during construction, this unique Ammani public space became very fashionable and was often frequented by many visitors to the City and to the Street. The house underneath has been preserved to serve as a headquarters for JARA and it also enjoys a quaint garden.
The Project also included several non-physical interventions such as coming up with guidelines for commercial signs and awnings, designation of different historic buildings, spaces, and vistas in the area, and coming up with a traffic solution for the Street where Rainbow Street becomes mostly one way. Finally, and for the first time in Amman, the pedestrian or the flaneur in the City can enjoy walking on a continuous side walk that works with no pumps, or with no high curb stones, and yet can also enjoy a distinctive urban experience with gardens, corner seating, panoramic lookouts and cafes. One positive indirect outcome of the Project is reversed gentrification where several ex-residents of Rainbow Street are now coming back to the older part of the City as residents in their original older houses.
Rainbow Street today, is an inclusive social space of successful co-existence between local Ammanis from different socio-economic background, expatriates, and visitors from various age groups. Not only that the Project had economically revitalized the area, but it introduced to the City of Amman a new unique and distinguished pedestrian urban experience.