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Minor Paradises

In a reality where water is short or inaccessible, how do we conceive of our public spaces and the culture of collective life in the outdoors? How do we re-imagine the idea of a garden in a time of drought and in a cultural context where the garden in its abundance of water and lush vegetation, is in itself a manifestation of ‘Paradise’?

‘Minor Paradises’ is intended as a series of provocations set against the Arab Paradise and against colonial notions of green. The Arab countries of the eastern Mediterranean refer to gardens as little paradises (jnaina): bounded boxes of green- delicate curation of plants in an ordered composition. Across the Arabian Peninsula, they are referred to as hadayiq, meaning ‘to bound or encircle’. In this context, the garden as bounded space of green was rare until the mid-20th century. Traditional courtyards were often barren – reserved for laundry, livestock and cooking. Greenery as an interior fantasy was reserved only for those who could afford the luxury of water that was spent on beauty or cultivation. Today the Gulf landscape is an inherited fantasy: the well mowed lawn, the verdant setback – notions of care or fecundity that are borrowed colonial fictions.

‘Minor Paradises’ revisits the traditional notion of the courtyard and the picturesque Jordanian landscape, and samples scenarios from the territorial scale re-interpreting it as a miniature landscape at human scale. Locally sourced sands, gravel, volcanic rock, and limestone re-create the landscape, construct topography and terrain conditions, and curate the visitor’s experience, connecting back to the core elements of our landscape. The mound is perceived as a mountain or as a hill. The gravel patch as a surface, or as a territory. Local adapted species of extreme drought tolerance appear as clusters negotiating the possibility of a new, water-less aesthetic. The garden therefore suggests alternative notions of care, maintenance and beauty. The benches in white plywood reflect on the typology of the courtyard as a social space in the Arab world. The benches allow for interaction and expose different views towards this constructed landscape. Small arches in the benches further emphasize the scale-less nature of the installation.

‘Minor Paradises’ is a collaboration between studiolibani (landscape architecture + urbanism) and Civil Architecture. ‘Minor Paradises’ is a full-scale, week-long, 720 square meters (7750sq ft) public garden installation that took place in Amman, Jordan during Amman Design Week 2019, at the Al Ain Hangar Plaza. Amman Design Week 2019 Hangar Exhibition, themed “Possibilities” was curated by Nora Al-Sayeh and directed by Rana Beiruti. Execution made possible through Anas Mikhi and team.

Role of the entrant in the project: concept, design, and supervision of execution
Project location: Al Ain Hangar Plaza, Amman, Jordan
Design year: 2019
Year Built: 2019

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