I was having one of those chaotic days, filled with a week’s worth of personal and professional commitments. Preoccupied with my thoughts, I passed by a building facade exaggeratedly ornamented with a ridiculous number of AC units. I must have seen that building hundreds of times before, but for some reason, on that specific afternoon, it caught my attention. I parked my car on the opposite side, staring at it, and for a few moments, I forgot all the things I had to do. The view I stared into is familiar to all those who live in Amman. We have all seen these AC ornamented facades before, the Jordanian Electric Power Company building between the sixth and seventh circle is a well-known example.
The word Facade comes from the Latin facia, meaning “face.” In architecture, its use did not drift very far from the original meaning; the Facade is the face of the building, the combination of its walls, windows, and all the different details on one of its exterior sides.
Architects over the centuries have given facades a lot of thought. After all, it is the first, and in many cases the only, part of the building that people experience. In addition, the effect of the facade exceeds the limits of one project or building, the collective facades of a city define the visual experience of this city. By taking that facade-gazing break, I ended up adding one more thing to ponder about that day. I spent the rest of the day torn between trying to convince myself that adding a few metal boxes to the front facade of a building in exchange of a cool blast of air on a summer day is a reasonable compromise, and trying to stop myself from condemning the owners of the building for destroying the facade and with it the image of the street.
I did not reach an answer, but my conclusion for the day was that if we kept the image of our streets, neighborhoods and the whole city in our minds, if we demanded our right to the city by treating it as an extension of our homes, we might be able to create a better version of our Amman.