Sahel Al-Hiyari, Monograph

Sahel Al-Hiyari


The book

December 2005 - Sahel Al-Hiyari, 2002-2003 Visual Arts Protégé

Published by the Centre for the Study of the Built Environment, with support from the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, the monograph Sahel Al-Hiyari Projects presents the most important buildings designed by Al-Hiyari. His mentor, Álvaro Siza, wrote the introduction.

The book was released at the Center for Architecture in New York in December 2005 on the occasion of Rolex’s Advancing the Arts Across Generations and Borders colloquium.

Sahel Al-Hiyari


B-House, Workspace & Spa

December 2005 - Sahel Al-Hiyari, 2002-2003 Visual Arts Protégé


Completed 1999

The site is located in the southern part of the Jordan Valley, an agricultural region with a hot, arid climate that provides a favourable setting for residential winter retreats. The project is a weekend house. The land was acquired by the client along with an existing ‘domino plan’ concrete structure that had to be incorporated into the new design. The main design brief requirements were to minimize construction costs and maximize living spaces, both external and internal, while incorporating a traditional or vernacular character. The house is designed following an L-shaped footprint that defines a courtyard with two boundary walls. Although the reference to the courtyard house is clear, the L-shaped footprint, the massing of the building, and the treatment of the courtyard as an extension of the main living space are atypical of the conventional courtyard house. The relationship between the courtyard and the main living space is characterized by visual, spatial, and structural continuities that reduce the autonomy of spaces traditionally found in this typology. The relationship between internal and external space is further emphasized by the external roofed living room on the upper floor. The project provides a subtle transformation of space/type that allows spaces to extend and flow into one another without transgressing the ‘rusticity’ that the client required for the project.


Clinical psychologist's workspace

Completed 2001

The project is a renovation of a 1950s residential structure. It is part of an extended family house, dating back to the 1920s, with two major expansions that took place in the 1950s and 1960s. The structure consists of one main double-height space, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a small bedroom located on the upper floor. The total area of the interior spaces is approximately 57 m2. The main objective of the project was to renovate the structure in order to accommodate the practice of a clinical psychologist, within the limits of a very low budget. The structure was renovated using readily available materials and common construction techniques. Cement plaster was mixed with steel particles in order to produce the pigmentation and texture that normally would be applied afterwards. The elevations are regulated through a system of raw steel sliding shutters that double as security grills. Through the oxidization of the steel, present in both the shuttdders and cement plaster, the different elements of cladding are brought into a greater state of accord. On the interior, the main consultation space is clad with wooden panels that are painted to match adjacent wall surfaces. Through these panels, the interior acquires a multiplicity of scenarios involving solidity, transparency, scale, and light modulation. In this project, local construction techniques are explored and extended in order to invest materials with new effects and meaning. The ‘substandard’ construction processes that produced that original structure are accepted and transformed through investigating their potential for re-contextualization.

Tsi Spa

Completed 2000

The site is located at Dabuq – A disorganised suburban zone at the outskirts of western Amman. The area is characterised by the anomalous arrangement of costly mansions, commercial buildings and a large military hospital.

The project is a schematic design proposal for a health spa that offers select and eclectic types of therapies combining Chinese and Russian traditions of natural medicine.

The most important requirement of the spa was the privacy of each of the eight therapy spaces. The design is a specific response to the requirements given by the client. It is a two-story building, which contains the therapy rooms and administration on the ground floor sectors are grouped in the middle of the building with a U-shaped single loaded corridor that runs on the internal periphery of the building. The grouping of the therapy spaces encloses an opened space in a form of a large rectangular courtyard that is subdivided to provide private gardens (aquariums) for each room. The purpose of these backspaces (Water Gardens) is not only to provide natural light for each space but also establish an internal view of an abstract landscape mainly formed by rocks, water and garden walls.

Sahel Al-Hiyari


S-House, K-House & D-House

December 2005 - Sahel Al-Hiyari, 2002-2003 Visual Arts Protégé


Completed 2005

S-House is located in Abdun, an affluent residential district in west Amman. The predominant house-type characterizing the district is the over-scaled detached ‘Villa’. The site is a flat plot of land surrounded by residential structure on three sides, and by a primary access road on the fourth. The site does not offer any views with which the house may establish a rapport. To compensate for this absence, the house was designed as an introverted entity that is organized around an internal landscape. The silent schematic quality of the exterior is in strong contrast to the richness of the interior. This project attempts to reinsert qualities of privacy, characteristic of the traditional “Arab” house, within a context dominated by extroverted exhibitionism. The open plan is anchored by a large internal reflecting pool and a double-height space that allows filtered light to penetrate the interior. The double-height space offers sectional variation within an otherwise horizontally expansive field.



Completed 2002

The site is a rectangular plot cultivated with olive trees. It is located to the north of Amman, in a rural setting near the town of Mahis. The project reinterprets the vernacular single-bay rural house common to Jordan in a manner that corresponds to the site’s hilly terrain and air flows. The common rural house typology is reinvestigated in terms of the rapport between the object and topography. The natural undulations of the surrounding topography are projected onto the form, transforming the object’s vertical and horizontal surfaces, and altering their conventional hierarchical relationships. The house is therefore conceived as an extension of the natural landscape. Moreover, its shape funnels the prevailing cool western winds through its internal spaces.


Completed 2003

The site is located in al-Rabiyah, a hilly residential district in west Amman. It occupies the upper part of a hill that has been subdivided into a series of lots. The design consists of an L-shaped roof floating over three autonomous masses – two of which are clad in stone. The three masses contain the house’s private spaces and facilities. They are rendered opaque on the street side (west façade), but open onto the living space, which commands a panoramic view of the opposite mountains to the east. The stone blocks of the building masses are horizontally stacked as thin layers to create a highly textured surface for the otherwise blank elevations. A private courtyard was excavated at the northern side of the site to provide ventilation and light for the submerged master bedroom. The courtyard also contains a swimming pool set against the property wall. The more public living spaces of the house are defined by the arrangement of the three enclosed masses and the roof. The qualities of openness and “in-betweenness” experienced in these living spaces usually are associated with the experience of movement and inhabitation within an exterior landscape. The result is an open space that appears to be more a part of the garden than the house itself.


Sahel Al-Hiyari


Darat al-Funun

December 2005 - Sahel Al-Hiyari, 2002-2003 Visual Arts Protégé

The Khalid Shoman Foundation Darat al-Funun

Completed 2005

The project’s basic premise is to devise a new front for the upper part of the Darat al-Funun complex, and to carry out general restorations within the upper area of this foundation for the arts. The idea behind the boundary walls and the entrance emerges from the very nature of the site itself, which in essence is a complex stratification of diverse historical layers that have their roots in ancient history and extend to the present. Such a specific context calls for an intervention that avoids a nostalgic interpretation of the site’s historical and cultural content, whereby history is reduced to a ready-made image or a stylistic exercise. Conversely, the strategy employed in this project is to add yet another layer, which endorses the plurality and contrasts present within the site, thus remaining consistent with the site’s history, process of development, and function as a home for the arts. Stone and concrete are the predominant elements that define the context in terms of its expression, materiality, and construction techniques. These materials produce two diverse languages that coexist and form the cadence of that specific district in particular, and of Amman in general. The intervention (boundary walls) is an outcome of a visual hybridization between the two languages. Here, concrete yields its properties to stone, and vice versa. The idea is to create a link between the two identities through an unfamiliar body that oscillates between both, yet belongs to neither. The scale of the walls was determined by the surrounding structures. The articulation of the walls, as a fabric of three-dimensional blocks marking the entries, corners, and connections to existing structure for a new façade for Darat al-Funun.

Sahel Al-Hiyari


Apartment & Restaurant

December 2005 - Sahel Al-Hiyari, 2002-2003 Visual Arts Protégé

Sand Lofts Apartment

Completed 2005

The project is a winning competition entry for a housing development in the district of Bneid El Ghar in Kuwait City. The design brief required the use of the loft type apartment in a high-density configuration. The maximum allowable building height is 80m, with a floor-area ratio (FAR) of 3.5. Another component of the brief called for the design of a public space on an adjacent site to the north of the project. The design solution consists of two parallel apartment slabs placed on a solid base, situated directly above two levels of subterranean parking. The public space, occupying an adjacent site, was proposed as an eco-park for arid climates, utilizing indigenous plant species and planting techniques. The base contains approximately 200m2 of commercial space that is organized around a courtyard, residential lobbies, and building services. It is periodically carved by a series of cuts that orchestrate connections between the adjacent streets, the building’s internal courtyard, and the adjacent park. The nature of the marble clad base oscillates between a condition of solidity and one of transparency, which fluctuates according to movement and the disposition of the cuts. In contrast to the organize complexity of the base, the apartment slabs above are rendered as repetitive, modular, and crystalline. Their skin is conceived as a ventilated façade composed of lightweight porous aluminium panels that function as a solar and thermal membrane. Each apartment independently controls the portions of the membrane associated with it. An aesthetic consequence of this pragmatic device is the production of variety within strict repetition – a simultaneous reiteration of the cellular nature of this housing type, and its obfuscation through use.




The project is a renovation of a very small 1950s house located in the Jabal Amman district of Amman. The project consists of transforming the house into a small restaurant. Floor additions to the existing structure proved to be obtrusive and impractical, especially given that the lower level of the house (currently a garage) was to accommodate the restaurant’s kitchen. For this reason the project is conceived as an excavation within the internal space of the house. The house is thus rendered as a shell, containing an organic double-height structure, with a glass skylight that protrudes slightly from the roof of the building. The protrusion is clad in zinc panels as an expression of a ‘fifth elevation’ for the structure, which may be seen from adjacent street that runs above the site.


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