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Beit Al-Fann: An icon of Amman’s architectural identity

beit al fann
Beit Al-Fann in Downtown Amman. (Photo: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Beit Al Fann is an authentic Ammani architectural edifice and a witness of the social, cultural, and political timeline of the city.

The Jordanian house of art, locally known as “Beit Al-Fann”, has travelled a long way before reaching its current form. The house was once owned by Ahed Al-Sukhun, the first Jordanian to hold the position of commander of the Jordanian Desert Force. He lived in the house between 1934 and 1938.اضافة اعلان

Located in Downtown Amman on Prince Muhammad Street, which is the city’s most vibrant street and one of its oldest; having existed back when Amman consisted of only a few houses. Prince Muhammad Street was among the capital’s first commercial areas and a commercial valley between residential hills.

Designed by the architect, Fawwaz Al-Muhanna, the first engineer to work for the Greater Amman Municipality, the two story building was built in two separate stages. The construction work on the ground floor started in 1923 and lasted for three years. The first floor was later built in 1937.

A year after construction was complete, Sukhun moved to Maan and decided to rent out the building to the Ministry of Education. Beit Al-Fann was then transformed into Al-Zahraa School for girls, which opened its doors in 1938 and closed them in 1995.

In 1995, the Greater Amman Municipality purchased and renovated the house until 2002, when the house was opened to the public as “The Jordanian House of Art”, a museum for art and theater that spotlights authentic Jordanian heritage.

Although can be accessed from Downtown Amman, the building is elevated one of the Jabal Amman neighborhood’s slopes, offering residents and passers by a view  the valley, and the opposing neighborhood, Jabal Luweibdeh.

The 402-square-meter house was built on 1269 square meters of land. Rather than following the street line, the building’s geometrical plan was dynamically oriented towards a different angle in order to allow more space for the welcoming entrance and the land plot’s landscape. The garden plays a significant role in the soul of the space.

Leading from the main street to the platform of the house, two opposing spiral staircases decorate the entrance of the building. This stylistic element was widely used in Levantine architecture at that time. The main elevation showcases unique rounded arches inspired by Mediterranean architecture, laying on modest columns. The entrance block protrudes, giving the first floor an unusual looking balcony with a mesmerizing view of the opposing hill.

The openings in the stone building’s doors and windows are tall, which makes them proportionate to the height of the building. They are not identical on both stories, but are still create an authentic dynamism.

The house is also a model of diversity when it comes to the materials of construction. Some of the building’s stones was brought all the way from Palestine while others were brought from areas near Amman. The tiles that make up the interior space of the building differ from one room to another in pattern and color, but are covered with the same rug style that was very popular in Levantine countries at the time of construction.

The building’s most notable attribute is the unique relationship it creates between its greenery and built structure, through which the landscape feels neither imposed nor artificial, but rather part of a harmonious spatial identity.

Currently, the building is undergoing renovation in order to maintain its condition. It represents a strong example among many others that helped to shape the architectural identity of Amman and holds historical, artistic and cultural value. Government support for the building and others has helped preserve the tangible and intangible elements of the city’s history.

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