Amman Design Week
From a mobile craft workshop touring Jordan to a focus on the art of food preservation, the co-founder of Amman Design Week discusses this year’s edition
Q&A Rana Beiruti
In downtown Amman a design revolution is burgeoning. Until October 14, the annual Amman Design Week (ADW) will bring together local and regional designers to explore this year’s theme of ‘movement’. Through a series of exhibitions, workshops and tours, visitors are invited to immerse themselves in all elements of design – from ‘Mouneh’, a food preservation programme that taps into local pickling and roasting techniques, to an exhibition in Hangar, the fair’s main hall housed in a former electricity building in Amman. In an interview with Brownbook, ADW co-founder Rana Beiruti shares what went into and what to expect at this year’s fair.
What inspired this year’s theme of ‘movement’?
The slogan we’ve been using this year is ‘Design moves life moves design.’ It’s a circular slogan – it’s not one sentence. It just keeps going on and on. Movement has sort of broadened us in terms of coming together and collaborating, collective action, talking about the topics that are important and trying to solve things through design. It takes on a bit of a problem solving activist approach to design and it’s been wonderful to see how designers have responded to that theme – whether it be addressing things like the water crisis or how to manufacture something.
The other aspect of movement is the more literal one – there are a lot of moving pieces and robotics. When you walk into the Hangar Exhibition you’ll see a lot of things playing and flowing. We wanted to expand our reach to other governorates, so we launched the Mobile MakerSpace which travelled around Jordan to Irbid, Karak, Zarqa and Mafraq before coming back to Amman for ADW.
Food is one focus of this year’s programming, which isn’t very common in design festivals. How was ‘Mouneh’ conceived?
We try to make design week a holistic experience of design. So it’s not just about coming and seeing objects, but experiencing design on all levels. Food is one of those things and it’s such a core part of our culture, so every year we have a curated food programme. This year the concept is mouneh, the art of the preservation of food. We also have our first food truck this year. One of our designers Ammar Khammash, has taken the moulds used to make breeze blocks and baked a cake out of that to serve slices on site.
Do you have a favourite exhibition?
I think the Hangar Exhibition is wonderful. It’s sort of, unintentionally, the crown jewel of design week. But for me the real soul and heart of ADW is where the stories are, and the stories are where the Crafts District designers are. We have a really nice crafts making programme where we have brought craftspeople from across the country. In some cases we were able to identify the last remaining craftsperson in Jordan working in, for example, glass blowing. We have a loom and a glass blowing furnace on site so people can weave with a weaver or blow glass with a glass blower.
Since last year, how have you seen ADW motivate designers in Jordan?
We definitely have a lot more designers wanting to be part of ADW. Last year we had only a few months to announce the call and maybe 180 applicants. This year we had close to 400. I think it’s also motivating in the sense that it brings the region together. We have people coming in from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the UAE, just to visit design week. There are several collaborations that have happened across countries through design week. That’s what ADW does, it’s a catalyst. I think one of the nicest comments I’ve heard is ‘You guys have managed to make noise in the desert’. People think that Jordan is just dry arid land with nothing coming out of it but the creativity here is unbelievable and untapped.