Center for the Study of the Built Environment: 2015 Annual Report


During 2015, CSBE completed the eighth cycle of the Omrania | CSBE Student Award for Architectural Design. Moreover, the CSBE team taught for the second time its Arabic-language Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the contemporary Arab city for the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development's Edraak platform. CSBE also carried out an extensive study on the experiences of users of public transportation in Amman and surrounding cities. In addition, CSBE started in December its Enhancing Civic Responsibility of Youth in Schools project, a one-year activity that involves redesigning and rehabilitating the grounds for three public schools located at the outskirts of Amman through a highly interactive process that involves the school's students. As for CSBE's 2015 budget, it showed a deficit of 25,789 JD, which was covered from the surpluses of previous years.

Projects and activities:

The Omrania | CSBE Student Award for Architectural Design

CSBE completed in 2015 the eighth cycle of the Omrania | CSBE Student Award for Architectural Design, which CSBE and the regional architectural and engineering firm Omrania and Associates had established in 2008. Students of architecture graduating from universities in Arab countries may submit their graduation projects for the Award. Over 140 projects from 23 universities from 9 Arab countries (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) were submitted for this cycle of the Award.

The Award jury consisted of Jordanian architect Hani Imam Hussaini, Founder and Director of Almarsam Architects & Engineers in Amman, and former Partner and Head of Architecture at Omrania & Associates and Director of its Jordan office; Spanish architect Josep Lluís Mateo, founder of the architectural practice Mateoarquitectura in Barcelona, and Professor of Architecture and Design at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich; and Iranian-American designer Nader Tehrani, Dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of Cooper Union in New York City, former Professor and Head of the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Principal of the architectural practice NADAAA in Boston. The Aga Khan Award for Architecture kindly provided support for the participation of Nader Tehrani in the Award's jury, who also delivered a public lecture entitled "The Tectonic Grain" while in Amman for the jury's meetings.

The Award jury members met in Amman in October to evaluate the participating entries and select the winners. They identified sixteen shortlisted entries and selected from amongst them three first-place winning projects, each of which received USD 3,000; three second-place winning projects, each of which received USD 2,000; and six honorable mentions. The winning projects were from the Jordan University of Science and Technology, the University of Jordan, the German Jordanian University, and the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts. The honorable mentions were from the American University of Beirut, the American University of Sharjah, Birzeit University, the German Jordanian University, the Jordan University of Science and Technology, and the University of Jordan.

The Award ceremony and exhibition were held in Amman in December at the Amman Electricity Hangar.

View detailed information on the eight cycles of the Award
View the poster for the Award's 2015 public lecture by Nader Tehrani
View the Award's Facebook page

Online publications

CSBE has continued to actively expand the content of its website during 2015. This has included the following sections:

The Experience of Using Public Transportation in Amman:
This publication features the results of the study on users' experience in public transportation in Amman, which CSBE carried out in association with Taqaddam Platform's ( Ma'an Nasel ("Together We Arrive"; public transportation initiative. The Arabic-language study aims at collecting reliable information to help forge an informed understanding of the state of public transportation in Amman and Jordan for use in lobbying activities and public awareness campaigns. It also serves as a baseline for any discussions or initiatives relating to public transportation in Amman. The study includes an overview of public transportation in Jordan; information on available publications about the subject, including technical studies, interviews with officials, and articles in the mainstream media; an analysis of interviews with regular users of public transportation; and the results of a field study that CSBE carried out to assess the experience of using over a dozen public transportation lines serving Amman and nearby cities. In addition, the study includes a ten-minute animated film that is available online entitled "Basima's Daily Trip to Work" that summarizes the results of the study through the daily experience of a user of public transportation in Amman.

Commemoration of the Late Jordanian Architect Jafar Tukan (1938 – 2015):
CSBE has collaborated with the online resource on the built environment in the Islamic world ArchNet, which is a joint project of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, to create an online section on the ArchNet site to commemorate the late Jordanian architect Jafar Tukan, who was one of the most important architects of his generation in the Arab world. Tukan's commemoration on Archnet showcases a selection of his work, and includes images of his projects, videos, and publications. A video that CSBE produced as part of this commemoration was Archnet's most viewed video from 2015.

This project was completed with the support of Shadi Abdulsalam, Partner Architect, Consolidated Consultants Group in Amman.

Amman's Worth-Noticing Urban Elements and Early Modern Buildings:
CSBE continued to expand this section that it established in 2014. Seventeen buildings, parks, and urban spaces accordingly were featured through this section by the end of 2015. Considerable visual and textual documentation is provided for each of them.

Amman’s Urban and Green Lungs:
This section provides information on five large open spaces that are located within densely built urban areas in the city. These are Al-Hussein Youth City, the Amman Citadel, the Raghdan Royal Court compound, Al-Hussein Park, and the University of Jordan campus.

Water Conserving Gardens: A User’s Manual:
The print version of the manual was originally published in 2004, and is now being made available online. This extensive Arabic-language publication introduces various possibilities for water-conserving gardening and provides ideas and guidelines that help create beautiful, colorful, water-conserving gardens. It also includes references to both printed and web-based resources for those who wish to obtain more in-depth knowledge about the subjects covered in the manual’s various chapters.

Plant Lists:
CSBE embarked in 2015 on a project that aims at expanding the plant lists it had established during the early phases of its Water Conserving Landscapes project, which extended from 2001 to 2012. Eighteen new plants have been documented through images and textual information that includes their popular and botanical names, growth season and growth rate, size, sun exposure, water consumption, and landscape use. The information on these plants is currently being made available on the CSBE Facebook page, and will eventually be also added to the CSBE website.

Social media presence

CSBE continues to strive for a significant social media presence through its Facebook page and its Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. These feature regular postings about CSBE's publications and activities, as well as postings with outside links to articles, videos, and events of interest to those concerned with the built environment.

CSBE also continues to manage the Omrania | CSBE Student Award Facebook page and Twitter account. These aim at disseminating detailed information about the Award.

CSBE in addition continues to administer the Remembering Ali Maher Facebook page to honor the memory of the remarkable Jordanian artist and architect Ali Maher, who died on June 10, 2013. The page includes testimonies by Ali’s friends and colleagues, photographs of Ali, as well a selection of his paintings.

The number of "Likes" for the CSBE Facebook page exceeded 4,700 at the end of 2015; the number of “Likes” for the Omrania | CSBE Student Award page exceeded 5,500; and the number of “Likes” for the Remembering Ali Maher page exceeded 800.

View the CSBE Facebook page
View the Omrania | CSBE Student Award Facebook page
View the Remember Ali Maher Facebook page
View the CSBE Twitter feed
View the Omrania | CSBE Student Award Twitter feed
View the CSBE LinkedIn page


The CSBE team delivered in association with the Edraak platform ( of the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development for the second time the seven-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in Arabic entitled "The Contemporary Arab City." CSBE first delivered this course in 2014. This is the first MOOC ever given on this subject, and the first MOOC ever given in Arabic on subjects relating to architecture and urbanism.  Over 6300 students had registered for the seven-week course that took place in May and June, and 172 students completed its requirements. The course was taught by CSBE Founding Director Mohammad al-Asad, who was assisted by CSBE Research and Coordination Officers Farah Tell and Tooma Zaghloul.

Enhancing Civic Responsibility of Youth in Schools project

CSBE started in December its Enhancing Civic Responsibility of Youth in Schools, which is funded by the USAID Civic Initiatives Support Program in Jordan. The one-year project includes redesigning and rehabilitating the grounds for three public middle-schools located at the outskirts of Amman through a highly interactive process that involve the schools' students. These processes aim at promoting civic responsibility among the youth by creating opportunities for them to take part in designing and implementing improvements to their school environments, and to develop places where members of local communities may come together as places of civic engagement.

Staff members

CSBE Research and Coordination Officer Farah Tell resigned from CSBE in the summer to pursue a graduate degree in Mediterranean Forestry and Natural Resources Management at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia in Lisbon through a scholarship from the European Union. Farah is the latest of a number of CSBE staff members who moved on through CSBE's support to continue their graduate studies or hold research fellowships at institutions including the City College of New York, the École Superieure des Affaires in Beirut, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Arizona, and the University of Illinois.

Three new Research and Coordination Officers joined CSBE in 2015. They are Haneen Dajani, who received her bachelor's degree in urban planning from the University of Waterloo in 2013; Afnan Barqawi, who received her architecture degree from the German Jordanian University in 2015; and Samia Kayyali, who received her bachelor's degree in the History of Art and Architecture with a minor in Anthropology from Harvard University, also in 2015.


CSBE continues to function on a very limited budget, particularly in comparison to its outputs. CSBE’s income for 2015 included support obtained from the Edraak platform for offering the Contemporary Arab City course, from Omrania and Associates for carrying out the Omrania | CSBE Student Award, as well as from the Taqaddamplatform for carrying out the public transportation study. In each of these cases, the support only covered a part of the costs of carrying out these projects. The Enhancing Civic Responsibility of Youth in Schools project was to start in the summer, but obtaining the necessary governmental approvals for it turned out to be a long and involved process. The approvals were not obtained until the fall, i.e. after the beginning of the school year. This meant that it was not possible to initiate the project until the second school term. As a result, funding for this project was not initiated until December of 2015.

Total income for CSBE in 2015 amounted to about 23,328 JD, and total expenses amounted to about 49,117 JD. This resulted in a deficit of about 25,789 JD. The deficit was covered from the surplus accumulated from previous years (note: 1 JD = 1.41 USD).

Obeidat and Freihat Attorneys & Counselors at Law continued to provide legal counseling to CSBE on a pro bono basis. Also, CSBE Director Mohammad al-Asad continued to give a considerable part of his time to CSBE on an unpaid basis. CSBE is grateful for their support.

Finally, a special thanks is due to the CSBE staff and board of directors for all the efforts they made in ensuring that 2015 was a successful year for the Center.

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