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Spaces In Between: Towards Defining ‘Privatised’ Spaces in Amman, Jordan

Salam Mare’e - 2018

While realizing the alterations occurring to public spaces in contemporary cities, this project explored the ‘privatisation’ of public spaces in the city of Amman, Jordan.

Public space is one of the essential components that form cities. Not only does it contribute to shaping the urban fabric of built environments, but it also defines the social life that occurs within it. A major issue that has been a concentration of discussion over the last two decades is the privatisation of public space. Public spaces in contemporary cities have been recently witnessing alterations in their traditional mechanism of provision and management, guided by the power of neoliberalism. The responsibility of these spaces has been increasingly transferred from governments to private sectors, leading to the emergence of new forms of ‘privatised’ spaces that are blurring the boundary between the city’s public and private spheres. Consequently, the privatisation of public space has been a topic of constant debate, with split views on whether this practice should be opposed or supported. Therefore, this research had the main aim of investigating the privatisation of public space in the specific context of Amman, Jordan.

Figure (1): The Abdali Project Land Use Plan. The Boulevard Promenade Zoned as a ‘Private Landscaped Area’.

Amman, like many other cities, is currently witnessing a transformation in the creation of its public urban spaces. The city’s urban landscape is being restructured with new forms of ‘privatised’ spaces, embodied in megaprojects, gated communities and shopping malls. With the increase in the production of these space, it becomes necessary to develop a critical appraisal of this practice and explore whether ‘privatised’ spaces are becoming alternatives to ‘true’ public spaces in the city. This is to conclude whether these spaces should be considered as a threat to public life or as an expansion to the city’s public sphere. The case of the Abdali Boulevard has been examined by this research to answer the main question. The Boulevard was observed following the (OMAI) model, which analyses a space in terms of ownership, management, accessibility and inclusiveness. Primary data were collected through several qualitative methods, including observational fieldwork, interviews and a focus group. The investigation was also conducted within a general understanding of the current challenges in Amman’s public spaces.

Figure (2): A Model for the Abdali Boulevard, and a segment of the Boulevard Promenade.

The outcomes of this research reveal that the practice of privatisation is inevitably impacting the characteristics of the space and the values that it can provide. Nonetheless, it is also having positive effects in terms of higher-quality management practices. Additionally, the research findings elucidate that the local public, and mainly the common users of this space, are defining the Boulevard as a public space. Thus, it is be concluded that privatised spaces are, in reality, generating opportunities for accommodating public life in the city of Amman. They are expanding rather than decreasing the city’s public sphere. This is justified by the existing condition of public spaces in Amman, which are lacking in both quality and quantity. As a result, the research suggests that the private sector should be involved in the provision and management of Amman’s public spaces, but only when this practice is guided by the local government to ensure that the publicness of these spaces is preserved.

Figure (3): The active use of the Boulevard, and a concert at the Boulevard Theatre.

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