Prepared by Mohammad al-Asad and Lara Zureikat, 2005
Detail of stair and outdoor seating
In developing the design of the park, a number of objectives needed to be realized. An emphasis was placed on preserving the original character of the park as a high-quality representative of the evolution of Amman's built environment during the 1950s and 1960s.
The formal aspect of the design also was intended to create a neutral visual setting that would house the outdoor sculptures to be commissioned and installed in the park over the next two years (figures 29 & 30). In addition, the park was to provide an environment that would encourage visitors to learn more about concepts of water conservation in gardens and landscape design. Finally, the park was intended to function as a setting that would encourage various recreational, cultural, and educational activities.
The park also needed to satisfy a number of functional requirements. A major requirement was to provide a visual and physical connection between the original building of the National Gallery located to the south of the park, and the extension building located to its north. The park also was to include areas that would accommodate outdoor sculptures and installations, outdoor performances, outdoor seating for park patrons, a play area for children, as well as demonstrations of water conserving landscapes.
The design of the park concentrated on a central 250 square-meter platform/performance area, which functions as a focal congregational space within the park, and also provides spatial and functional links between the original building of the National Gallery and the extension building (figure 31). Moreover, this central platform is located over the park's 160 cubic meters rainwater harvesting reservoir, and includes built in stone grills through which the rain water is directed to the reservoir (figure 32).
The central platform incorporates a series of levels to accommodate an area that can function as a stage and also areas for seating. Shade trees have been planted around the platform, and when these reach their full mature size, they will provide the area with considerable shade.
The paths springing out of the central platform area follow the route of the preexisting paths of the old park. The original irregularly-shaped stone panel paving was maintained to provide a visual and textural link to the original character of the preexisting park (figure 33).
The paths leading towards the western end of the park converge onto a semicircular plaza located adjacent to the café/restaurant, which occupies the western part of the park. The café/restaurant was designed and implemented separately from the park, but a level of coordination was maintained between the two components. The Greater Amman Municipality has agreed on an arrangement through which the café/restaurant would be rented out to a private operator, and the rental fees would be paid to the National Gallery to provide this national cultural institution with additional income to support its activities. The plaza and the café/restaurant initially were intended to be integrated visually and functionally, but the operators of the café/restaurant later decided to screen it from the plaza to provide a higher level of privacy for their patrons.
All the original trees and mature ornamental plants of the park were preserved and integrated within the new design. These original plants have been supplemented by a wide range of additional water-conserving trees, ornamental plants, and ground covers (figures 34, 35, & 36).
The use of turf was avoided in the park. Instead, an emphasis was placed on water-conserving plants that function as ground covers and on non-organic ground covers such as the local pumice stone known as tuf. One small area of the park, however, has been covered with Bermuda grass. The idea is that if lawn absolutely has to be used, Bermuda grass is one acceptable solution since it requires less water than most locally used turf mixes. It also can tolerate not being irrigated for long periods without dying off, but only turns brown-yellow under such conditions. Once it is irrigated, the brown-yellow grass blades turn green again.
The park is surrounded by a fence, which is intended for the protection of the park. The park has five gates. Three of these serve as public entrances. The northern and southern gates lead to the National Gallery building and the National Gallery extension respectively (figure 37). The third gate is located to the east of the park. These gates are locked at night. The remaining two gates serve the café/restaurant. One of them functions as the entrance for patrons, and the other is used for service and delivery. The fence has been designed in a manner to allow for complete visual openness between the inside of the park and the area surrounding it.
It is difficult to figure out the exact construction costs for the rehabilitation and development of the park. Support for the construction of the park has come from a series of donors. A number of the construction activities for the park were carried out directly by the donors, and a good part of the support they provided was made as in-kind, rather than cash, support. However, it is estimated that the construction costs for the park (excluding the renovation of the café/restaurant building and the garden surrounding it) amounted to no less than 250,000 JD (about 350,000 $US).
The main challenge now that the park is completed is its maintenance and upkeep. The Greater Amman Municipality has dedicated a team for this purpose that would work under the supervision of the National Gallery. CSBE also has developed a comprehensive maintenance checklist for the park to facilitate maintenance and upkeep follow-up. In addition, a stakeholders committee including representatives of the National Gallery, the café/restaurant operator, the neighborhood residents, and those who work in the vicinity of the park, has been formed to follow up in the park.
The National Gallery Park provides a very unique landscaping experience within the context of Jordan. It creates a setting that allows for a variety of educational, cultural, and recreational activities to take place in it. It also can provide a model for the use of planting systems that require little water and little maintenance. It is hoped that this experiment will provide an impetus for the creation of similar parks throughout the country.