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October 17 2021 5:42 AM ˚

Why didn’t the Cultural Avenue succeed?

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A photo collection of the Cultural Avenue in Shmeisani. The avenue was built when Amman was chosen as the Arab Capital of Culture 2002. (Photos: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)
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AMMAN — The Cultural Avenue in Shmeisani is a brilliantly designed public space, yet it has failed to attract pedestrians throughout the past 20 years.اضافة اعلان

After the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) was established in 2002 and Amman was chosen as the Arab Capital of Culture 2002, GAM developed the Cultural Avenue in Amman as a destination for pedestrians to encourage socializing in public spaces.


A photo collection of the Cultural Avenue in Shmeisani. The avenue was built when Amman was chosen as the Arab Capital of Culture 2002. (Photos: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)

Located in Shmeisani, which was considered the hub of Amman at that time. The area was primarily commercial and vibrant, filled with all types of people and ages; residents of Amman who lived there earlier were considered to be of the higher class. In order to gain foot traffic, the project’s location was set in the banking district.

Designed by the Dutch architect Tom Postma of Tom Postma Design, the architect described it as a “pedestrian boulevard.” The project introduced a new typology of public spaces in Jordan that redefines the relationship between vehicles and people.

Rather than creating a park in a busy area, this public space was created by redesigning a 360m long street. The street island was enlarged to be a 15m wide pedestrian area along the road and includes shops, an open theater, seating areas, and a gallery space. In contrast, the surrounding streets were narrowed to control the vehicle traffic and give priority to people.


A photo collection of the Cultural Avenue in Shmeisani. The avenue was built when Amman was chosen as the Arab Capital of Culture 2002. (Photos: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)

The linear spine was divided into seven segments to offer various experiences for the users. The first segment, which was found on the northern edge, has a water channel that runs along the entirety of the segment.

Other segments include a plaza and an amphitheater, shaded by sculptural structures, with a “green area” that includes plants and a shaded seating area found between the plaza and amphitheater. The theater is also surrounded by a series of kiosk shops from the south.

The gallery, another segment of the avenue, was designed to be a public showroom with displays viewable to pedestrians. The slope of the street was designed to help prevent street noise and the gallery is located at a lower level from the street, which can be reached by ramps and stairs.


A photo collection of the Cultural Avenue in Shmeisani. The avenue was built when Amman was chosen as the Arab Capital of Culture 2002. (Photos: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)

Local Jordanian materials were used to pave the spine; black basalt, red granite, green Dabaa stone, and Ajloun stone were all used to create colorful strips that bought the complex.

The Cultural Avenue or “11 August Street” came as an attempt to facilitate pedestrian areas within the city with multiple projects that were worked on at that time. However, 20 years later the Cultural Avenue might be the least successful among those projects despite its beautiful design.

One of the main reasons for the project’s failure might be the lack of attractions for visitors.  The area is considered a business area with relatively few shops, which means it’s rare to see visitors who do not work or live in the area.


A photo collection of the Cultural Avenue in Shmeisani. The avenue was built when Amman was chosen as the Arab Capital of Culture 2002. (Photos: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)

The kiosks designed in the avenue were intended to be book shops but failed to attract enough foot traffic and eventually became convenience stores.
Moreover, in an area that doesn’t offer enough parking spaces, it is hard to ignore the lack of public transportation in Jordan, which aided in the failure of attracting visitors outside the neighborhood due to the inconvenience of parking.

What used to be an elegant space is now facing neglect and deterioration; some of the architecture, including seats, signs, and benches, have been ruined due to them being used as skateboard ramps.

The functions of surrounding buildings — being a banking district — play a role in why the avenue is lively at noon but empty at night — and if not empty, then filled with young men drinking and smoking argileh, making it uninviting for women to visit the avenue or partake in activities there.

Mohammad Al-Ramahi, a 38-year-old man who lives in the neighborhood, describes it as a “ghost town” after 4pm.


A photo collection of the Cultural Avenue in Shmeisani. The avenue was built when Amman was chosen as the Arab Capital of Culture 2002. (Photos: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)

However, the space is not entirely deserted and unimportant to everyone; Oday Abu Nassar, Hamza Khdour, and Abdulrahman Awwad are all 20-year-old students that study in Al-Qadisiyah College right next to the avenue and have been coming there every day for the past two years and still manage to find joy in the space.

“It is very calm in here and filled with greenery, it is nice to come here with friends and chat a bit, most of our college’s students pass by here every day, and somehow it became an essential part of the day,” said Khdour.

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