Minor Paradises | Civil Architecture and studiolibani

Installation at the Amman Design Week 2019’s Ras El Ain Gallery Plaza. Nora Al -Sayeh Holtrop, curator of this year’s design week, commissioned Civil Architecture (cultural practice, Kuwait-Bahrain) and studiolibani (landscape architecture firm, Lebanon) to present a full scale week-long installation occupying a 720 square meter (7750sq ft), under the theme Possibilities.

In a reality where water is short or inaccessible, how do we conceive of our public spaces and the culture of collective life in the outdoors? How do we re-imagine the idea of a garden in a time of drought and in a cultural context where the garden in its abundance of water and lush vegetation, is in itself a manifestation of ‘Paradise’ ?

Civil Architecture and studiolibani presented ‘Minor Paradises’, a series of provocations set against the Arab paradise and against colonial notions of green. Minor Paradises questions design in a time of drought and explores the notion of paradise in one of the most water scarce regions in the world. The Arab countries of the eastern Mediterranean refer to gardens as little paradises (jnaina): bounded boxes of green- delicate curation of plants in an ordered composition. Across the Arabian peninsula, on the coast of the Gulf, they are referred to as hadayiq, from the word‚ ‘to bound or encircle‘. In this context the garden as bounded space of green was rare until the mid-20th century. Traditional courtyards were often barren – reserved for laundry, livestock and cooking. Greenery as an interior fantasy was reserved only for those who could afford the luxury of water that was spent on beauty or cultivation. Today the Gulf landscape is an inherited fantasy: the well mowed lawn, the verdant setback – notions of care or fecundity that are borrowed colonial fictions.

Minor Paradises revisits the traditional notion of the courtyard and the picturesque Jordanian landscape, and samples scenarios from the territorial scale re-interpreting it as a miniature landscape at human scale. Locally-sourced sands, gravel, volcanic rock, and limestone re-create the landscape and curate the visitor’s experience towards the Hangar. Mounds of earth material pushed beyond its limits (angle of repose) form artificial geometries of varying heights and sizes, concealing and revealing views of this constructed landscape. Local adapted species of extreme drought tolerance appear as clusters negotiating a new, water-less aesthetic. The garden therefore suggests alternative notions of care, maintenance and beauty. 

As an exercise in managing scarcity, the construction of the one week public park was made possible through the ‘loaning’ of sand, gravel and indigenous plants from local contractors and nurseries. The benches were donated to a nearby skate-park at the end of the Amman Design Week. 

Minor Paradises

Location: Amman, Jordan

Designers: Civil Architecture and studiolibani 

Photo Credits

Minor Paradises, 2019 – Civil Architecture x studiolibani – The The Hangar Exhibition – Amman Design Week 2019 – Photo by Edmund Sumner

Minor Paradises by Civil Architecture x studiolibani – The Hangar Exhibition – Amman Design Week 2019

Publication Date: