Abu Samra House in Amman, Jordan

By: Roedah Mansour

Architect Team: Symbiosis Designs LTD
Project Team: Khalid Nahhas, Nisreen Alfar, Daad Musa, Raad Sawalha
Interior Designer: Fadi Faragallah
Structural Engineer: Marwan Ghanem
Mechanical Engineer: Issa Hamdan
Electrical Engineer: Khalid Sarahneh
Client: Mr. Ma’rouf Abu Samra
General Contractor: Fusion Developments
Photographs: Arnaldo Genitrini, Osman Akuz, Ghassan Aqel
Location: Amman, Jordan
Project Year: 2008

This earth-toned home is one that blends into its dry landscape, standing tall under the bright Jordanian sun. Because the Symbiosis Designs LTD architects rejected the traditional use of stone in Amman, they were able to extend the textures and depth of tones in the home. Plaster was used as a high-quality building finish, exemplifying the team's craftsmanship in challenging the low-budget connotations of plaster being the "cheap" alternative to stone. 

Abu Samra's home consists of two cubic masses that are connected with a gallery corridor, which the architects note might have ended up providing for a rather busy composition, especially toward the western edges of the building. "Nonetheless, the use of forms expresses on the conceptual level an element of reductionism, as with the expansive plastered surfaces and simple rectangular cutout windows. The southern one of these two compositions of masses extends the axis of the corridor, while the northern one is rotated from it at an angle, partly to break the longitudinal extension of the house, and partly to maximize the views of the surrounding landscapes available to this northern mass." Thus, the view of the house from the street shows the linked cubic forms being juxtaposed on the sloping site, giving only a glimpse into the home. 

If you were to look at the home from its other side, the facade only opens, "interweaving inside and outside and providing expansive views of the rolling hills dotted with oak trees that the site overlooks." The home has been compared and connected to Gerrit Rietveld's 1924 Rietveld-Schroder House in Utrecht, expressing a duality between 2- and 3-dimensional compositions:

From the Architect: This duality also clearly is evident in the composition of the entrance area of the house. The entrance door is situated between a mass with a recessed corner window, and a long, thick planar wall, which also may be perceived both as a plane and a mass. As one proceeds into the house from this entrance, which is located at the southern extremity of the longitudinal axis that cuts through the building, one is provided with a long unobstructed visual corridor that leads the eye all the way to the other end of the house, 24 meters away from the entrance.

At that point, a large window overlooking the outside garden provides a terminus for the axis. The corridors of the house are much more than utilitarian connections linking one part of it to the other. Along their open glazed sides, they provide vistas opening up onto the adjacent rolling hills. Their closed sides serve as gallery walls on which are placed works of contemporary Arab paintings from the Abu Samra family’s art collection. From the interior, the spaces defined by the heavy solid exterior walls contrast with this solidity. The spaces of the house flow freely, both horizontally and vertically, emphasizing views to the outside. Doors are kept to a minimum, open spaces prevail, and double spaces are used abundantly.

The architectural vocabulary of this house, with its massing, treatment of openings, and use of color, is rather novel to the architectural scene in Jordan. However, it still is highly sensitive to the immediate topographic surroundings, and the forms of the house, with their longitudinal strips set along the sloping site, work very well with its topography.

The interior of the home is modern and sleek, black and white hues dominating the walls and furniture, with random (read: strategically chosen and placed) colored pieces bringing life and character into the home.