One thing is certain, Jordanian architect Sahel Al-Hiyari is not afraid of thinking big. A 700-square-metre villa? “That's nothing unusual in Jordan,” he says, “some houses cover as much as 2,000 square metres.” Also accomplished amateur painter, Al-Hiyari chose the Jordanian capital, Amman, as his professional base after working in firms in Boston, Cairo and Milan, convinced that his work could “make a bigger difference here”.
The small studio he opened in 1997 has grown into Sahel Al-Hiyari and Partners, currently employing six architects. Be they private residences or professional offices, all of Al-Hiyari's projects reflect the same passion for light that inspires his mentor, Álvaro Siza. Geometric shapes brought into relief by the play of modulated light are the hallmark of his original architectural style which earned him an invitation to give a lecture at Harvard last April. Sahel Al-Hiyari has recently put this passion for light and lines to good use in the design of a visitor information centre inside Jordan’s National Park at Petra. The construction, which got under way in July and will be completed in the coming months, clearly accentuates the angular: “During the Neolithic period,” he explains, “circles slowly turned to squares. The building is inspired by that mutation. I wanted to demonstrate that Petra has a rich and textured history far older than that which draws visitors here today.”