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October 22 2021 6:39 PM ˚

Jordanian architect stresses importance of history to achieve modernity

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Jordanian Architect Leen Fakhouri. (Photo: Handout from Leen Fakhouri)
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AMMAN — Back in high school, Jordanian architect Leen Fakhouri had one of the highest ten GPAs in the Kingdom. She sat with her father’s friend, who was an architect, who explained to her what she should expect from a career in architecture. Since she always enjoyed critical thinking and expressing herself, she decided to pursue it.اضافة اعلان

During her studies at the University of Jordan, Fakhouri had a unique learning experience with an international profile. She was taught by American, Scottish, German, Sudanese, Egyptian, and Jordanian professors, who encouraged her to be experimental in her work.

In 1984, Fakhouri graduated at the top of her class, and was asked to be a teaching assistant at the University of Jordan. For a long time, she was the only woman on the academic staff as the faculty of engineering was highly dominated by men. However, standing out never bothered the young architect.

In 1986, Fakhouri received the Rotary Foundation Scholarship Award and decided to pursue her passion in history. She received her Master’s Degree in Architectural Conservation Studies from I.A.A.S./University of York, the UK in 1988.

“I believe you only can be modern when you know your past. This doesn’t mean freezing what we have, rather being aware of our history in order to narrate our own modernity,” Fakhouri said in an interview with Jordan News.

Between 1993 and 1996, she worked on the Taibet Zaman village tourist development project with the Jordan Tourist Investment, which was awarded the 1996 Tourism for Tomorrow Award, organized by the British Airline, chosen from 100 other projects as a product of sustainable tourism. The process got Fakhouri access to international agencies and to a multidisciplinary approach, and taught her the importance of good networking, exposure, academic research, and partnerships.

Since then, Fakhouri has shaped her career with a mix of consultancy and practice, with a never ending learning and research process, and networking between tourism, anthropology, science, sociology and the private sector. She has worked as a researcher, coordinator, team leader, heritage specialist, and consultant for a variety of projects, including in coordination with UNESCO. She has worked on some of Jordan’s most precious historical sites, such as Petra and Salt.

The architect also makes time for volunteering. She enjoys working with NGOS because they offer advocacy of grounds, a participatory approach, and an opportunity to deal with the public, she said. 

Fakhouri believes that Jordan’s restoration scene today is not well structured, although Jordan was once a pioneer in the region. She pointed out that the country lacks good networking between architects, historians, artists, sociologists and scientific research centers. 

“Thankfully, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities recently started paying attention to restoration, and we are starting to witness youth involved in the restoration process,” she said. 

Fakhouri, who worked as an instructor at the department of architecture at the University of Jordan from 1987 until 2016, and is currently an industrial professor at the German Jordanian University, finds that her academic experience is a natural extension of her previous experiences. She finds pleasure in the direct contact with people and likes teamwork. Teaching always makes her feel young, she said.

Throughout her academic career, Fakhouri follows a practice-based approach, which she believes is essential for architecture education. She emphasized that the center of the learning process is the student, who should be directed towards tools, not products.

“I believe that education is a two-lane learning process,” she said. “You learn as you teach. That is why I never give similar courses and I’m always flexible as I change the course direction depending on the process.”

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