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2009 Historic Preservation Travel

Amman Workshop

Since March 2009, the Historic Preservation Program has been actively at work documenting a small, abandoned villa that has been given to the GSAPP by the city of Amman. The villa was built in about 1935 for one of Jordan's  first prime ministers. Five students began the documentation during spring break and seven students (along with  Professors George Wheeler and Andrew Dolkart) spent time during the summer of 2009 completing the project. Our presence in Amman relates to the opening of the Columbia University Middle East Research Center. The Queen of Jordan is the patron for this larger project and students had the pleasure of showing her their work in March.
Examining floor plans of the villa are, from left to right, Lisa Michaela (in profile), Andrew Dolkart, Tara Rasheed, Negin Maleki, and Laura Michaela.
(Left) On March 22, 2009, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah listened to a presentation on GSAPP student work in Amman on documenting the house of former prime minister Ibrahim Hashem. Dean Mark Wigley of Columbia University GSAPP is to the left of the photo and in the rear are Historic Preservation students Tara Rasheed, Lisa Michela and Laura Michela.
(Right) Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah and Columbia University GSAPP student Will Raynolds review the student drawings documenting conditions of the house of former prime minister Ibrahim Hashem in Amman, Jordan.

Door at Beit Ibrahim Hashem, Amman. The house was thoroughly documented and its conservation issued assessed by a team of seven students from the Columbia University Historic Preservation Program in the summer of 2009.

Study of Blues Music

Aleyna Becker, Xsusha Flandro, and Janine Wilcoscz (MSHP ’09)

Blues music, characterized by the 12-bar blues progression and melancholic lyrics, emanated from the Delta region in the early twentieth century. Many early blues musicians grew up on sharecropping plantations, where one of the main forms of entertainment was playing music at social gatherings. Older, local musicians served as mentors to these budding musicians, showing them how to play the guitar, piano or harmonica.

These musicians then set out to craft their music in juke joints, nightclubs near rural crossroads catering to sharecroppers and farm workers. The juke joints were a place where African Americans could gather to socialize, which was often accompanied by live music, dancing, food and alcohol. These joints typically had inconspicuous names because they were “underground” and relied upon word of mouth. Blues musicians traveled from joint to joint along Highway 61 and Interstate 49, which follow the Mississippi River. They would go to Memphis and Chicago to make a record but always returned to the rural juke joints to play music. It was here that these musicians entered their prime and became folk legends.

The objective of our traveling along Highway 61 was to revisit these old blues haunts and document them through photographs, sketches and personal experience. We discovered that many juke joints were not originally built as such. Musicians played in front of grocery stores, drugstores, in pool halls, theaters and sometimes at houses. These buildings were often altered using readily available materials, which usually included recycling found objects. This is one of the aspects that make these structures unique and also vulnerable to deterioration.

Throughout our travels we encountered some sites that had already perished and others that were on their way. However, some efforts were being made to mark these sites, such as plaques installed at important locations by the Mississippi Blues Trail Commission. Of course, the best preserved juke joints are those still being used for live music. Eventually we plan to compile all of our information into a website so that others can expand this body of work.