‘Insurance Building’: Amman’s first tower icon of modernist aesthetics

Insurance Building
The structure known as the “Insurance Building” is seen on First Circle, Jabal Amman neighborhood. (Photos: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)
AMMAN — In Jabal Amman neighborhood, one of the oldest areas in Amman and once the hub for community elites, at the corner of what is now called Rainbow Street, stands a tower often called the “insurance building.”اضافة اعلان

Positioned on the first circle, its unique location allows a beautiful dialogue between the building and the old city, overlooking the capital in all directions.

The building was designed by late Lebanese architect Khalil Khoury, dubbed the “beton master” (concrete master). The architect and artist was influenced by the modernism and Bauhaus architectural movements, using them to shake conventions and traditional clichés.

The architect was influenced by the brutalism era in Beirut, which cropped up in the 1960s, a little bit later than its origin in the international scene. The movement was known for its honest, direct expressions and clear materials and form.

Construction started in the 1950s and was completed in 1961. The project started as a contribution of the Bdeir family to create a symbol of modernity and a charm for the Jordan Insurance Company. 

The eleven-story building was the highest in Amman at that time and was easily spotted in the city’s skyline. 

Consisting of three different structures, the idea itself was revolutionary at that time; the main mass is articulated with horizontal windows holding the office spaces; the secondary structure is finished with light beige stucco offset from the main structure, indicating vertical circulation; and the third piece is broken by the topography and lays flat and horizontal, hugging the ground. 

This horizontal orientation makes the structure more welcoming to pedestrians.

The building is engaged with its urban surroundings through a very strong axial approach to the site from the Islamic Educational College Street. A dialogue with the human scale takes the form of the humble podium. The base of the building is triangular due to the shape of the city, and the orientation of the building, angled towards the first circle, works as a connection for pedestrians between the two different street levels.

The modern international style in architecture is present in the continuous horizontal opening in the façade, which gives the impression of being carved from the structure.  The neat expression of the form, dynamic orientation, and use of concrete for structure and marble for facades also embody the modernist aesthetic.

The elegant office spaces have a layout that provides unique private working spaces and a common lobby, with high flexibility to facilitate the buildings’ new needs.

For example, the new study house fits perfectly into the space. The glass all around the building provides natural lighting and ventilation, in addition to the extraordinary view on the top levels of the building. All of these elements give the workplace a level of intimacy.

The first floor used to house the American Cultural Center and was visited by people who were interested in American culture. 

It was also the site of protests and rallies after the 1967 war, which led to the deterioration of some elements. Later, it housed Alia Airlines.

The insurance building is considered an icon of modernity in Amman, as it contributed to the city’s modernist journey and was a symbol of philanthropist power that had a key role in developing Amman. The construction of the building accelerated several moments of change that shaped the city we know today.

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