Finding modernist architecture, in Mugabalein!

Finding modernist architecture in Amman
Click to enlarge.

Yes the mural is crazy. And yes the last floor looks added on. But I was just fascinated to find this example of international style modernism on a main street in Amman’s Mugabalein district!

Apparently, this building belongs to the Ministry of Health (the sign says, “psychiatric health clinics”). It has a socialist air to it. The mural is a kitschy depiction of some european scenery (?!) and not a depiction of ‘workers and peasants uniting’. It still looks like something out of a latin American or Eastern European socialist past.

Over the past years I have developed a secret hobby of admiring the modernist architecture of Amman which was built in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Some of that architecture is residential (think: Shmeisani villas), some of it is governmental (like this building above) and some of it was institutional or private (like the Amazing Mouasher Hospital in Jabal Al Hussein, or some of the amazing movie house facades of downtown Amman).

Almost no one considers these example of modernist architecture as architectural heritage. If something has lot of store work and ‘nice’ Ottoman era arches, it is accepted as heritage by most people. Mind you, twenty years ago, people were tearing down some of the houses of the 1920’s with no care in this world. Now, places like Darat Al Funun in Jabal Luwibdeh and Jordan River Designs’ headquarters in Jabal Amman, stand as examples of our new-found interest in Amman’s urban heritage.

But the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s? Most people would not even think of the word ‘value’ when they see these buildings.

When I look at most of Jordanian architecture today, I see the built expression of a culture that has grown pompous and conservative: the villas of Abdoun or Dabouq, most of our ministries and public buildings are vertical stone castles. Heavy. Defensive. Small windows. They have an obsession with privacy and permanence and they mostly carry the ugliest kinds of stone ornamentation (borrowed from some fantastical vision of Europe or an imagined Islamic past).

Then I see a building like this hospital and I see horizontality. Lightness. Simplicity. Even an attempt at communication via that weird mural.. No stone, but white concrete. No ornamentation, but an interesting layer of metal latticework.

I am almost sure that the interior of this building is quite ugly. It has probably been changed and mutated by the inhabitants beyond recognition.

But still, that facade, to me is better than most of the architectural bulkiness being built in Amman today.


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4 Responses to “Finding modernist architecture, in Mugabalein!”

  1. Ahmad Al-Sholi Says:

    Can not agree more.. Amman today exhibits capitalism and wealth, expensive dullness for middle class, and mean poverty.. all within walking distances :)

    What gives hope, that so many people are looking just like you to art, beauty, identity at each intersection, street, cafe, and district. Wealth had its toll on various aspects of life, and economy has a lot to do with people beliefs and conceptions. Many prefer places with identities and flavors, many will remain entertained with what money can do.

    I personally would like to believe that all the economical hardship Jordan is going through is to reach a healthier being enabling people to focus and invest in their identities.

  2. Onzlo Says:

    I love the architecture of the Muasher Hospital as well, but recently I heard that it has been torn down (probably to be replaced with a windowless mall), is this true?

  3. Khader Says:

    Ahmad:
    This is indeed a nice a building I wish you have a close up photo of it.
    Do we know who is the architect?

    Maybe you need to get admitted to the clinic so you can get interior shots!!

    Keep up the good work, Thanks

    Khader

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