Jack Bai
urban design & landscape architecture
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Research Study: Wadi [Re]Urbanization

Wadi [Re]Urbanization

Columbia GSAPP, M.S Architecture & Urban Design
Instructors: Kate Orff, Nora Akawi, Ziad Jamaleddine, Petra Kempf, Laura Kurgan
Spring Studio 2018
Project Location: Jordan
In Collaboration with Betsy Daniel, Ken Piyawut  and Janki Shah


Subtraction is often perceived as something that does not exist, it is often treated as disposal than retention, erasure than exchange, it signals loss while accumulation signals growth. However the act of subtraction have potential to deploy active forms and agents. These active forms are multipliers, switches, remote controls, or governors – time-released protocols that manage these exchanges with a stream of objects and spaces

wadi (noun) wa·di / wädē 
a valley, ravine, or channel that is dry except in the rainy season
urbanization (noun):  ur·ban·i·za·tion
the process of making an area more urban
wadi urbanization (noun): 
The process of making a wadi more urban, a change from the natural conditions of a wadi.


The engineering of water infrastructures in Jordan during the 20th century, fueled by political and economic threats and funded by international means, respond to a global scale need rather than local scale. These infrastructures, carrying water thousands of miles, are feeding into the intense urban growth of Amman, in essence a wadi urbanization. Prior to these concretized structures and the creation of the Trans-Jordan borders, cities were mostly temporal settlements comprising local communities.  Their dependency on nearby springs for water  intimate understanding of the water and wadi cycle omitted the need for heavy water infrastructures. With future projects such as the Red to Dead Sea pipeline and the new desalination plant in Aqaba, we can question whether these projects are in a response to the local needs and economic values of “urbanized” centers or political and economic ploys. 

What if a wadi was redefined as a typology, that of a living system giving local values to place and people? What if 20th century water infrastructure is decommissioned and repurposed to govern new urban pattern?

We propose using methods of subtraction at these 20th century infrastructures as the instigator for a [re]urbanization. We identified four different wadis; Wadi Mujib, Wadi Al-Hasa, Wadi Musa and Wadi Araba; and its unique local conditions to initiate strategies of water absorption, catchment and holding and development. For Wadi Muji, it’s an [re]urbanization of ecological and biodiversity; for Wadi Al-Hasa, its an agricultural [re]urbanization; for Wadi Musa, it’s an archeological [re]urbanization, and Wadi Araba as a catchment [re]urbanization. Wadi [re]urbanization is therefore an integration of water holding and development, a slower more decentralized urban patterns dependent on natural cycles of water collection. 

What if wadi [re]urbanization is a means/solution to reduce pressure on Amman through reimagined areas along the wadis as places for growth and integrated development?