The new lights of Rainbow Street are on! I just came back from a quick 30 minute visit to the street. I wanted to check out the street’s new developments and also document a creeping danger that is threatening the street’s urban identity.
I will not elaborate on the interventions that were made as part of the street’s renewal process. I prefer to to let the quick photos tell their own story. Overall, I like what I saw. Even the controversial cobblestone paving of the street is OK by me. I think it’s a good idea to force drivers to slow down when they drive through Rainbow street, making it more pedestrian friendly. If, for special occasions the street is closed fro traffic, the cobblestone will give it a pleasant atmosphere.
The new additions to the street are a mixed bag. Some are good, like the lighting and big introductory map/sign. Some are extremely gimmicky, like the “prism” sculpture on the new terraced plaza at the entrance of the street. Just think of it: glass prism + lots of nice big stones around them + kids! I swear that even on a chilly night like tonight there was only one woman with her little daughter near the glass prism and I saw a stone fly out of the girls hand, luckily near a wall on not on the glass.
Tidying up the street is a great initiative for a fabulous street..
But there is a scary danger looming that has the potential to absolutely wreck the street:
The fake “village” style that is popping up here and there.
This is not the direct fault of the renewal project. Blame it on shop owner’s lack of understanding of what kind of ‘heritage’ this street represents.
If Rainbow Street celebrates any ‘heritage’, then it is the ‘heritage of modernity’. It reflects the development of Amman in modern times: the birth of the Kingdom of Jordan in the 20th Century. Cinema (the street was named after famous Rainbow Cinema).The western influences on shopping (it was the exclusive shopping street of the elite in the past), education, the growth of corporations (Jordan Petroleum Refinery Building, openness to foreign cultures (The British Council), new building styles (Amman’s first high rise, the Insurance Building was built on the First Circle) and so on..
Rainbow Street is the story of the emergence of Modern Amman.
Rainbow Street is NOT about village life. It is NOT about old wooden doors. It is NOT about yellow stone arches and pergolas.
Yet, it is exactly this fake “village style” that some shop owners are plastering on the facades of Rainbow. With all respect to the intentions of the shop/restaurant owners whose facades are pictured in the last four photos below, they have to know that they totally misunderstand what Rainbow is about.
Most Ammanis architectural and urban vocabulary does not go beyond:
Modern = Glass Tower (like Dubai) Heritage = Arches and Uneven Stone (Like Great Grandfather’s village)
There is almost no understanding for ‘modern heritage’. Modern heritage is all about the transition of Amman into the 20th Century.
If Rainbow Street is allowed to be taken over by this misunderstanding of its character it will become, in one year, a totally fake touristy place that has nothing to do with its real story. That would be utterly sad.
So. I deeply hope that the people in the Greater Amman Municipality responsible for the street’s renewal, pay attention to the identity of Rainbow and make sure that the street’s original spirit is preserved. The best way to preserve it is to just leave the buildings alone and provide some guidelines for signage. The street already has good examples of signage (definitely not made to look like broken wood from a farm!!).
The renewal of Rainbow Street can be such a great catalyst for urban renewal across Amman. It should not allowed to be hijacked by a ‘Kan Zaman’ style.
I leave you with the photos:
Entrance plaza. Not a bad public place. But stones near glass pyramids??
This place sort of fits the spirit of Rainbow. But too much neon.
The old movie theatre that gave Rainbow Street its name. I am not so sure about the red aluminum cladding. Does anyone have an old photo of this cinema?
Modern lighting works well. Cobblestone give the street some warmth.
A civil atmosphere.
An example of early Amman architecture: This is an now a public school.
New trees and benches will make this wide sidewalk look great in a few years.
Panoramic terrace.. Nice idea but a bit gimmicky. And what is that pergola doing there?
Batata: Here since the mid 1990′s. THe vibrant sign works well. I am not saying all signs need to be like this one. The diversity of signs is a feature of Rainbow.
Fake wooden beams and yellow stone. Definitely the wrong style.
Modernist building with wide windows.. destroyed by the street level restaurant and gift shop facades in brown plaster. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!
Good intentions gone bad. The famous Al Quds Falafel shop. Now with fake village facade, complete with face wooden window shutters. And, unbelievably, an ENGLISH ONLY sign.
Absolutely the worst example on the street. Look at the horrible sign, farm door and wooden poles. Disaster.
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