Arini Arini

Workshop: Design interventions at Al-Azraq Refugee Camp

Client: Civic

Year: June 2020

Team: Liyan Al Jabi, Sara Yaseen, Sarah Hejazin, Jafar Al Jabi

This workshop was part of a research on Al Azraq Refugee Camp to co-design interventions in public spaces across the camp. The workshop sessions created informal discussions around the participants’ memories of play and play areas in their hometowns in Syria. They reflected on the different perceptions of play and the definitions of the tools used for playtime and games. The participants were asked questions on what they used to play with growing up and where they played, all while shedding light on how playing in cities (via playgrounds and play areas) is different than playing in rural areas, with the latter depending on natural landscapes and open spaces.

The participants were encouraged to reflect their childhood memories of play on their current environments using accessible resources, materials and tools. They were also asked to share their thoughts on the existing playgrounds, childcare services and play tools at the camp.

Remote workshop

The original intentions of conducting a live workshop at the camp were revoked upon the COVID-19 outbreak and the strict lock-down that followed. A remote workshop that used WhatsApp as a communication medium was selected as an alternative. The workshop material was revised and optimized for distant communication. It was transformed to prints, stickers, mapping games, game cards and colors. 10 participants were chosen from three villages at the camp.


The team prepared 7 videos to be shared with the participants in order to explain the assignment and the instructions for completing the attached sheets.


Thirty kits were packaged and shipped to 30 different Syrian families at the camp. Each kit contained eight different media sets:

  • Introductory Brochure
  • Social Status Questionnaire
  • The Neighbourhood kit
  • Gamecards
  • Satisfaction Questionnaire
  • Storyboard
  • Children’s board game
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Analysis and Case Studies for Habib Zyoodi House and the neighboring area

Client: UNDP Jordan

Project: Heart of Amman

Commission: Research and analysis of Habibi Zyoudi (Poetry House) and for the possibility of having a successful and ethical adaptive reuse project.

Team: Mohammad Aljabi, Sara Yassin, Zainab Ishaqat, Sarah Hejazin, Muna Alaikash.

Images: Arini, Greater Amman Municipality and the Architect's archive


The Habib Zeyoud House is a true gem in almost all aspects, starting from the house’s history that predates the modern Kingdom of Jordan, to its inhabitants and its unique location and architectural language. The house stood witness to the birth of Amman governorate and the

The aim of this study is to investigate the site and to unlock its potential to support the neighboring community by developing a comprehensive plan that contains permanent and temporary functions that can span throughout the year.

Furthermore, the report will explore the notions of ethical adaptive reuse processes and how it should be carried out correctly while balancing between ethics and aesthetics.

Keywords: Heritage, adaptive reuse, interim program, urban interventions

House Typology

The definition of the typology of this house was based on an interview with Dr. Rami Daher and the research of Janset Shawah regarding the houses of Amman during that era.

The house is defined as an Ammani House which is the combination of a Lebanese 3-bay house that was modernised with a flat roof and distinguished elements.

Fawwaz pioneered this style and it is considered a unique style that defined the architecture during the British mandate.

Dr. Daher considered this style to be the start of modernity in Jordan.

According to Shawah, there is no longer a storey division into ground floor and noble level. Each storey forms an independent household, and individual houses are usually single-storied. The entrance is usually through the front elevation that also holds the most distinguished element of the Ammani house: the triplet opening topped with flat-arch lintels – an heirloom of the British mandate. Another element strikes a standardized note in this model of houses: the front entrance porch covered with a protrusion resting on two columns1.

“Another feature of this model is the general absence of any delicate ornament to decorate the façades. The general air emitted by the elevations is one of plainness. They still abide by the general lines of the three-bay Renaissance residue, yet there is a certain modern abstraction to the lines of these crisp façades” (Shawash, 2003)

Construction Phases

1- Original layout: Based on the drawings of the architect, the house didn’t have a basement and had a horse stable.

2- The house extension: based on the sudden change in the tiling used in the house. It is evident that the extension and the basement were added at a later stage.

3- The GAM intervention: In order to transform the house into a public building, the municipality added the Habib Zyood Library building to host the library and the administrative staff. They also added the canteen and the storage building with a public toilet on the lower level.

The report included a detailed history of the house and the architect which is important to propose an ethical adaptive reuse strategy.


What’s next

1- Urban scale

- 5 Thematic topics were provided as potential interventions. These topics were based on the built environment of the area and its unique topography while tackling the social and demographic aspects of the area.
- The themes aim to re-energize the area’s economy by redirecting the traffic from the Roman Amphitheatre to the mountain by suggesting supporting activities and attractions.
- The themes also aim for finding innovative approaches to transform the built environment and promote long term sustainability through green infrastructures.

2- Poetry House adaptive reuse

- Ethical adaptive reuse methodology is suggested to carry out the physical intervention in the house.
- A comprehensive program was suggested in order to include the women and refugees according to their skill-sets and successful cases from around the kingdom.
- The program aims to utilize the outdoor spaces for interim use as a mean to economically support the area and sustain the project.

Proposal for Outdoor Areas (Overview)

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Outdoor area and program

From the study of the house, its landscape and ratio of built area to open spaces, the outdoor area makes up a big part of the site (80%) and the following is a suggestion of the program for the activation and use of the outdoor area of the site, to its full potential, in line with the proposed functions of the buildings.

Image and approach of the outdoor spaces:

Employing neighborhood residents, especially women, through the interim market and the food produced in the community kitchen, while generating income for the families and footfall to the site.

Encouraging the involvement of all age groups in the neighborhood, especially students of nearby schools, through the Learning Gardens principle, which also promotes a healthy lifestyle, by allocating parts of the soft landscape (e.g. the green plot by the security building) as planters, whose products could be used in the community kitchen and the outdoor market.

Interim outdoor market stalls of simple construction. The stalls could be designed in a way that would make them double as benches when not in use.
Permanent year-round seating area on the platform next to the house, serving the community kitchen and the poetry house.

Self-sustaining approach: some of the seats in the seating area could be made of recycled materials or waste from the houses in the neighborhood, and assembled in the workshop. The food prepared in the community kitchen could be made from the plants grown in the learning garden on the site.

The outdoor areas:

The lower terrace:

Observation/lookout point: based on statistics of tourists visiting the Roman Theatre and Hashemite plaza, in addition to personal observations during site visits, a good number of tourists visit the Roman theatre and its adjacent museums, and some even take the trip up to the poetry house to get another view of Amman. With the improvement of the walkways leading to the site, the project is expected to receive more footfall from the Roman Theatre visitors. Thus the lower terrace would still be functional as an open platform for tourists and locals alike. The terrace was also used for events conducted by the poetry house in its active years, so it could also serve as an additional activity space for the house.

Seasonal/temporary market: Based on the local case studies of Souk Jara, Baraka destinations, and Iraq al-Amir, their success and ability to empower women and involve them in the economic and social growth of the society, the proposed outdoor intervention in the lower terrace is an interim market for the crafts produced in the workshop and the food prepared in the community kitchen. The temporal character of the market while alternating with the terrace as an interaction platform and observatory creates a dynamic and refreshing atmosphere in the site and ensures that the outdoor spaces are active year-round.

Terrace on house level next to the house:

Outdoor seating area that serves the visitors of the community kitchen. A ramp for the disabled could be accommodated in the path directly adjacent to the house. To increase the community’s involvement, some of the seats could be made by the women and/or teens in the workshop. This terrace could also accommodate events related to the cultural agenda of the poetry house.

Cantine terrace:

Outdoor seating area for the community kitchen.

Incubator terrace:

Additional outdoor activity space and seating area that serves the incubator. The terrace is well-shaded throughout the day (given the shadows cast by the residential buildings in the southern side of the site), connects to the community kitchen, and overlooks the entire site.

Green area next to the police station:

This area could be used as a planter, following the concept of “learning gardens”, to encourage the participation of teens and children of the neighborhood in the growth of the project, given the high rate of teens and children from the nearby schools. The area would also include the ramp for the disabled leading to the incubators.

The potential benefit of the interim market

Temporary interventions definition: Bishop and Williams conclude that the concept of “temporary” cannot be “based on the nature of use, or whether rent is paid, or whether the use is formal or informal, or even the scale, longevity or endurance of temporary use, but rather the intention of the user, developer, or planners that the use should be temporary.” (Peter Bishop and Lesley Williams. 2012. The Temporary City, London: Routledge, 5). The experimentation and reversibility afforded by such temporary use practices can encourage a multi-layered approach to space use. The local community can also benefit from temporary use projects, as they typically empower marginalized communities by “instilling in them a sense of participation in the creation of a ‘place.’”(Németh and Langhorst, 6). By encouraging public participation in the planning stages of temporary use projects, initiators can catalyze communities around common goals that serve local needs and create tangible outcomes.

Following the conclusions from the case studies, as well as the local case studies of Souk Jara and Iraq al-Amir, an interim market in the lower terrace would make for a successful project that uplifts the neighborhood and its inhabitants. In addition, the provision of retail facilities in the area – for example, the vacant stores on Algeria St. And by the Roman Theatre – would be encouraged if the interim market proved to be successful. An existing unplanned spontaneous market is often a good indicator that an area is in need of permanent market facilities.

Food as a growth factor: the community kitchen and food market

Much of the resurgence of the food economy in cities is made possible by the adaptive reuse of existing infrastructure. The millennial food revolution comes back to the abandoned infrastructure or buildings, benefits from their centrality while strengthening urbanity, and builds upon their history and the character they still hold in their architecture. Part of the proposed program employs food, as food revolution is an inherently relational urban process: food is about producers and consumers sharing a common passion; it is inclusive because everybody eats, all cultures have their own food, and no specific training is needed to prepare food; it’s also scalable and accessible: a successful food business can start with a food truck or shared space in a larger facility, but can easily cluster or grow to occupy thousands of square meters. The small-scale commercial activity generated in the site through the market and kitchen could encourage private enterprises to occupy the vacant stores along Algeria St. And turn them into restaurants or small businesses.

© Ole Reinsberger

Pilots for Strategic Change in Jabal Al Natheef Workshop

Following Mapping Jabal Al Natheef, Arini launched Phase II of this project, which is dedicated to re-imagining a better environment to be adhered to the refugees’ minds through small-scale and self-driven physical interventions motivated by a need of local regeneration.

Curated and organized by Arini

Workshop leaders: ShamsArd Design Studio

Workshop contributor: Rand El Haj Hasan

Sponsor: Heinrich Böll Stiftung Middle East 

Guests and speakers:

  • Samar Dudin - Regional Director of Ruwwad Altanmyeh.
    Ruwwad’s social work and experience in Jabal Al Natheef.
  • Lecture by Dr. Myriam Ababsa from IFPO where she presented her in- depth research on housing statistics, housing strategies in Jordan and some past projects supported by the Government.
  • Eng. Kamal Jalouqa on informal housing in Jordan and related examples from around the world.
  • Al Amin Kably, urban planner. (via Skype from USA)

    Flexibility in the planning informal areas.
  • Kamel Dorai from IFPO
    Current research in Zaatari camp and the domestic strategies adopted by the refugees to enhance their temporary housing conditions. Throughout the lecture, Dorai draws on the similarity between Syrian refugees today and Palestinian refugees from 1947 and 1968.

The project’s strategic framework established a set of interventions designed to achieve a more habitable and sustainable neighborhood in the near term.


© Ole Reinsberger

In September 2015 the exploration of strategic design as an instrument engaging both material and social change materialized through Pilots for Strategic Change in Jabal Al Natheef Workshop; social scenarios were coupled with novel design proposals to develop physical interventions concerned with the everyday life of the camp residents. The workshop tackled the infrastructure and sustainability elements

Arini has curated a design workshop that focused on re-imagining an affordable, efficient, and environmentally sustainable neighborhood by using strategies that redefine and utilize infrastructure as mean to develop the area, this workshop tackled issues of urban sanitation, waste management, street condition and accessibility.

The architects of ShamsArd lead this workshop where they worked with the participants in two stages: five days were devoted to understanding the context of Jabal Al-Natheef and proposing solutions, followed by five days of implementation.


From left to right, workshop leaders Dima Khoury and Lina Saleh © Ole Reinsberger

© Ole Reinsberger

Dr. Myriam Ababsa © Ole Reinsberger

© Ole Reinsberger

© Ole Reinsberger


Participants were initially invited to learn about the context of Jabal al Natheef and meet with local residents. Scholars and local actors presented an overview of the area, while site visits and meetings with an array of the camp's population allowed for a deeper understanding of the physical and social fabric.

The first objective was to observe, listen, learn and empathize as much as we could in order to understand the community's intrinsic organization and needs and its relations with the local governing bodies.

Site visits allowed participants to employ their senses and record their experiences, without any personal judgments. These were translated into words, photos, sketches that opened up for preliminary brainstorming opportunities within the group.

Testimonies from a wide range of residents were as well an important contribution to the knowledge of the local context. Through which, participants were able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the community, understand what difficulties the members of the community are facing, learn how they are affecting their lives and understand how they are currently dealing with them. This initial immersion, with its physical, intellectual and emotional layers, set the grounds for discussions and exchange, resulting in a number of topics -that of safety, sanitation and quality of space- that would be the subjects of design.

With that, participants collectively developed ideas addressing the different topics. These were tested and evaluated following criteria related to the context and to sustainability, such as time and economical affordability; their ability to be replicable by the residents; their effectiveness; their cultural, social and geographical appropriateness and their durability.

Ideas were narrowed down to a number of small-scale and localized solutions, which with further input from the inhabitants and local governing bodies, were adjusted to their specific contexts.

© Ole Reinsberger

The main goal and hope is that these acupuncture interventions, part of a larger test and trial design approach, will help make a difference in improving some of the resident’s basic needs, and ultimately ripple to other parts of the camp.

Closing event © Ole Reinsberger

Click here for Mapping Jabal Al Natheef publication

Mapping Jabal Al Natheef Publication

Editors and workshop curators: Arini


Liyan Aljabi
Heba Alnajada
Mohammad Aljabi
Christoph Lueder


Prof. Dr. Christian Schmid
Dr. Siobhan Campbell
Ed Wall
Samar Dudin
Ohoud Kamal
Mohammad Al Hajji

Community partner: Ruwwad | رواد التنمية

Academic Partner: German Jordanian University

Publication design:

Arini produced an in-depth study of the socio-spatial structures of the refugee camp’s built environment. Arini continued its investigation; throughout 2014 we carried out focus groups, discussions and meetings with the community.

Mapping Jabal Al Natheef project investigates and compiles data in the pursuit of interventions that are scenario and time based. Considering design as an open act of capacity building, we examine mapping processes as active agents of change. This presents a chance for us urbanists, architects, and designers to understand the spatial dynamics of a community —that evolved to become integrated into the economic activity and into their urban environment— consequently unlock its socio-economic opportunities.

This project introduces two phases of intensive investigation and extensive exploration.


Approach and Methodology

Our project began with a question: How can we, as urbanists, designers and architects understand the interdependence between Jabal Al Natheef’s built environment and its social structure in order to assist with unlocking its socio-economic opportunities?

© Hadeel Ayed Mohammad

The full publication on Issuu:

© Hadeel Ayed Mohammad

In Phase I, which began in winter 2012, we carried focus groups, discussions and Mapping Jabal Al Natheef workshop —Autumn 2013—. At the end of this, we bring forward this publication to present the research the contributors and we have been working on. In Phase II, which begins the following winter, Arini team will continue its exploration of strategic design as an instrument engaging both material and social change; social scenarios will be coupled with novel design proposals to develop physical interventions concerned with the everyday life of the camp residents. The iterative methodologies focus on investigations of spatial, structural and material organisation, engaging in discourses of architecture and urbanism.

© Hadeel Ayed Mohammad


The project approach focused on dissecting one study strip into five areas and layers related to those areas:

Built Environment: What are the elements of the built environment, their condition and typologies?

Housing: What are the existing housing typologies?

Needs: What are the needs of the inhabitants of the area?

Socio-economic status: What is the condition of the inhabitants of the area

These five areas provided the framework around which the collected data was organized.


Both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies were used, and then employed critical analysis to review the data.

Qualitative: One-on-one process, posed questions directly to individuals of the community, the interviewers investigated the richness of emotions and impressions through multimedia recordings. Qualitative data were in the form of interviews, group discussions and observations.

Quantitative: Detailed social questionnaires distributed to a sample of 50 inhabitants of the area.

Critical Analysis: Both research techniques were followed by a critical analysis of the data, where we reflected on the generated information to come up with patterns, urban indicators, and relationships in order to develop conclusions.

© Liyan Aljabi

© Khalid Ali

© Khalid Ali

© Khalid Ali


This project was made possible by the brilliant 29 participants from multidisciplinary backgrounds we had on board; architectsurban plannerscurators we had on board.

Angel Jirkisian
Hadeel Mohmad
Haitham Kurdi
Hiba Jarar
Khaled Ali
Lana Salameh
Lina Ghanem
Luai Kurdi
Mayassa Al Damerji
Mohamamd Mango
Mohammad Naji
Nadin Sh Yassin
Namariq Al Rawi
Nida Mouhsin
Nizar Taha
Noura Al Khasawneh
Nujud Ashour
Nure Shammout
Ola Kaka
Rand Al Haj Hassan
Raslan Hawi
Sally Odeh
Sara Nowar
Shada Qahoush
Sofeen Salameh
Sonia Nimri
Tara Yamak
Zeid Madi
Zeina Al Thawabteh

Closing Event at German Jordan University, darat othman bdeir

© Liyan Aljabi

© Liyan Aljabi


This project was made possible by a generous contribution by the following organizations:

Heinrich Böll Stiftung Middle East


Click here to see the day-to-day workshop details


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