Prepared by Mohammad al-Asad and Lara Zureikat, 2005
Bird's-eye view of the park looking south
The National Gallery of Fine Arts Park (previously known as the Jabal al-Luweibdeh Park), which was constructed during the late-1950s, is one of Amman's older public parks. The park, which occupies an area of about 7,500 square meters, provided a pleasant green space surrounded by residences belonging to what was one of Amman's most elegant neighborhoods.
Over the years, the park had suffered from poor maintenance and neglect, and consequently greatly deteriorated, but had not lost its elegance and charm (figures 1, 2, 3, & 4). In early 2002, The Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE) proposed a project for the rehabilitation and development of the park. CSBE consequently embarked on securing commitments for supporting the project from donors, and also on coordinating with the Greater Amman Municipality, the owner of the park, to obtain their approval and support for the project. CSBE was able to initiate construction work on the park in the Spring of 2004, and the work was completed about a year later, in May 2005 (figure 5). The rehabilitated park, which continues to be open to the pubic, includes outdoor sculpture displays, children's play areas, a performance/exhibition space, a café / restaurant, and model educational gardens demonstrating water conservation landscape practices.
CSBE carried out the rehabilitation of the park as part of its Water Conserving Landscapes project, and in association with the National Gallery of Fine Arts of the Royal Society of Fine Arts.* The Water Conserving Landscapes project was supported by the Water Efficiency and Public Information for Action (WEPIA) program, which was carried in association with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, and supported by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Considerable support for the construction work on the park also was provided by the Greater Amman Municipality and the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation.
The rehabilitated park now is an integral part of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, and the park in fact was renamed as the National Gallery Park to emphasize this integral connection. The new park consequently will include installations for outdoor sculptures, to be commissioned and implemented over the next few years. The park also provides a physical and visual connection between the original building of the National Gallery, which is located across the street to the north of the park, and the new extension of the National Gallery, which includes the rehabilitation of an existing building from the 1950s, and is located across the street to the south of the park (figures 6 & 7). A renovation of the original building and the rehabilitation of the extension building were completed at the same time as the rehabilitation of the park. The complete complex was officially inaugurated in May 2005 under the patronage of Their Majesties King Abdullah and Queen Rania.
The park also is intended as a model water-conserving park that informs the public about water conserving landscape practices. The park consequently includes a 160 cubic-meter reservoir that has the capacity to harvest rainwater, and that is connected to an efficient drip irrigation system. The park features water-conserving plants that need minimal irrigation and in many cases limited maintenance, as well as gravel-covered areas that require no irrigation (figures 8, 9, & 10). A special turf grass (Bermuda grass) also has been used in one part of the park to minimize water consumption (figure 11).
These various features are illustrated by signs and installations that showcase special water-conserving plants. The signs provide data that includes plant names and relevant horticultural information (figure 12). Water consumption indicators in the form of glass prisms also are displayed among the planting displays (figures 13, 14). The signs and installations allow the park to partly take on the role of a water-conserving botanical garden (figure 15).
Other displays of interest include two small gardens located within the park. These are a Japanese garden, designed through the Japanese Embassy in Amman (figure 16), and a Spanish Andalusian fountain designed and implemented through the Spanish Embassy in Amman.
Since this project consisted of the rehabilitation and development of a preexisting park, existing conditions had to be studied before any design decisions could be taken. Before initiating the process of redesigning the park, an extensive physical analysis of the preexisting park was carried out. This included surveying and mapping existing conditions, including existing vegetation, topographic levels, shade and sun patterns, circulation, as well as carrying out a visual assessment of the various components of the park, including its plantings and hard-scaped areas (figures 17, 18, 19, & 20).
The CSBE staff also carried out an observational mapping process of the park as well as interviews with stakeholders. The observational mapping included collecting information on the number of users of the park and their patterns of use of the park, as well as on traffic and parking patterns around the park, all at different times of the day, different days of the week, and different times during the summer and fall months (figures 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, & 27).
Interviews were carried out with various stakeholders including users of the park, residents of the neighborhood, people working in the vicinity of the park, as well as the staff of the National Gallery (figure 28). The interviews and observational mapping allowed the CSBE design team to develop a detailed overview of the various potentials and challenges that need to be addressed in developing the park.