Written by: Khalid Seydo
Amman at its best is a picturesque cluster of stone coloured urban hillsides, dotted with the green of hundreds of trees. But without the trees Amman sometimes presents an arid, dusty and de-hydrated face. Surely any tree is a benefit and trying to find the 10 best is an impossible task? Probably, but if you narrow the choices, you have a chance. As an architect I’ve selected trees in Amman for very special reasons. I’ve excluded all trees in private gardens, not because they don’t add to the city, but because their effect is limited to those classic views (except for the lucky garden owner). Also ignored are trees in municipal parks because as specialist spaces created as a sample of nature they are zones separated from the everyday life of the city. I also didn’t want to show those planted displays with grass that rely on lots of irrigation and so waste valuable drinking water. So I’m left with the trees that are in my view the most precious. They are those living within the urban streetscape, publicly accessible, creating shade and natural patterns for all of us, rich or poor, where we gather or stroll.
I have given credit to trees that, because of their position, size or shape make the space around them a little better. So, this rules out all of the pavement and pedestrian blocking trees placed to prevent public access and with one exception, I’ve excluded ‘highway trees’ in the centre of roads. Instead I’ve concentrated on places that function as shared city spaces, are enhanced by particular trees and also, somehow, suggest the stories of Amman, both grand and humble. You will have your own favourites (why not let us know!) and I’m sure I’ve missed so many great examples, but here goes my selection (in no particular order):
1. Ras Al Ain, Omar Matar St.
Situated on the site of the fresh-water spring that has nourished the inhabitants over the centuries, this tall eucalyptus tree symbolically marks the life sustaining natural heart of Amman. Many cities have been founded on springs and these places have been respected for their precious gift. Let’s hope the source of Amman’s spring will develop into more of a symbolic green area enhanced by the remaining trees on this so far neglected side of the downtown ‘culture zone’.
2. Downtown, King Faisal St.
These street trees are remnants from historic Faisal Street’s long service as a public space in downtown Amman. Tall and slender Washingtonia palms, they still provide an elegant axis for this unique, visually enclosed street which has all the potential of a great public square. Some additional palms would really show the continuing commitment to this space.
3. Downtown, Al Hashemi St.
An informal cluster of trees (mainly eucalyptus) near the covered route of Amman’s Seil (stream) making an intimate shaded space in contrast with the large open spaces around the amphitheatre. Useful for informal clusters of people and bringing a much needed splash of green to downtown.
4. Downtown, King Talal St.
These fine young trees placed next to the road with enough space around for pedestrians, serve the everyday shops and stalls with shade and colour. Trading here is not the most glamorous in Amman but these trees really add some style.
5. Jebel Amman, Junction of Rainbow St. & Shukri Sha’shaah St.
This broad spreading tree marks the junction of Rainbow St which curves around it as it decends the hill. It is like the axis at the centre of this urban space as drivers and pedestrians circulate around it in every direction. The Traffic Police know a good spot when they see one.
6. Jebel Al Luweibdeh, Paris Circle
Is this an ‘avant garde’ pine tree? Leaning on the rails of this established circle on Luweibdeh this tree and its partners create dynamic silhouettes. Possibly a symbol of the artsy establishments on this Jebel.
7. Abdali, Umayya bint Abed Shams St.
Perhaps nothing too special to note here, except that this single eucalyptus tree, lost in on the fringe of the asphalt desert of Abdali transit area, provides a typical place-maker. As a ‘sign-post’ and a shade for a refreshments kiosk, this typically symbiotic relationship of small trader and tree is seen all over Jordan!
8. Jebel Hussein, Trees on Khalid bin Walid St.
These trees as a group frame this popular shopping street and create a barrier to the traffic. The pavement is wide enough to allow the trees space to spread and their position next to the road gives shoppers space to wander in shade and for hawkers to lay out products. Perhaps here and in other important city spaces, the electricity cables will be installed underground as the trees get taller!
9. King Hussein St.
This shaggy but promising group of Washingtonia palms in the wadi between Jebels Hussein and Lueibdeh create an informal and natural green break between the buildings and symbolise one of the natural advantages of Amman. With the water run-off from the hills this, like many others locations, is a low-water area for trees and plants. Perhaps more (and larger) linear parks could be nurtured in Amman’s valleys? Strung through the city they could provide accessible shelters of sustainable greenery against the roar of traffic.
10. Jebel Al Jofeh, Al Taj St.
I don’t think that this crooked olive tree needs much explanation except to say that an urban survivor of such character and age deserves huge credit!
You may not agree with my list but at least agree with the claim that the public trees of Amman deserve celebrating and nurturing into the future. The best trees in the right places really do make the shared spaces between city buildings more habitable and enjoyable. Allowing us brief reminders of the natural world, of time changing at a different pace, and giving shelter and colour, they really are worth more than their monetary cost. They can also symbolise and focus a city’s attitude to its shared spaces and to the natural world beyond it.
Khalid Seydo is an architect based in Amman and London. http://shahzady-seydo.com/LCN/Home.html
For more information on Jordan’s trees, the importance of native species and water-wise plants see The Royal Botanic Garden’s website http://royalbotanicgarden.org/
Where is your favorite tree?
Let us know by commenting below!