With repeated waves of regional immigration over the last century, Amman grew from a small city of a few thousand people, to a metropolis of over 2.7 million people from diverse origins in the region.
Humans have inhabited Amman for many millennia, as evidenced in the Citadel and its large Roman theatre. But today’s Amman is still the youngest capital in the Levant, a region that boasts old capitals like Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad.
Growing quickly from a village to a metropolis, Amman has always had a “practical”, almost utilitarian, feel to it. Amman experienced large growth spurts with elites which had roots in other places. Although earlier on, Amman had developed a civil identity that was liberated from the influence of entrenched traditions, nevertheless it was slow in accepting its own urban identity, and remains to this day an uneasy comparison to other Arab capitals.
A combination of factors made this task quite challenging, and exciting for SYNTAX at the same time. The city generally lacked urban intensity, experienced denial by its inhabitants of an urban character, and faced the perception from visitors that Amman is “bland” or "boring”. It was seen as a city that does not offer itself very easily to outsiders, making their experience less exciting in comparison to other cities in the region.
Hundreds of citizens from all walks of life were interviewed for this project, as we set out on a journey that took us through Amman’s hills and history, as well as its contemporary reality, and future aspirations. We had the most interesting discussions with many insightful Ammani personalities: people who love Amman, but who are also able to critically dissect its identity. We talked to the young and old, from different areas of the city. We read and saw it through the words of poets, novelists, historians, architects, anthropologists, and bloggers.
We took photos. We designed logos. We created typefaces.
We discovered that we, Ammanis, hardly know our city. Amman’s diversity was strongly matched with stark disparities, openness, homeliness, relative stability, and ease. Its people’s resilience and spirit of initiative, as well as its unique topography, weather, architecture and nature, offered potential to form a vibrant collage, and a potentially pioneering “city brand”. On the other hand, there were also forces of urban fragmentation, carelessness, and a weakness of engagement that needed to be overcome if this city wanted to truly fulfill its potential.
Our strategic recommendations included measures for telling Amman’s story, strengthening public space/public transport/public participation, and instilling a “citizen first” attitude in GAM’s services and communication to bring Amman’s city brand to life.