The Al-Ola Apartments are South of Amman, just off the main road on the way to the airport. Hweteh, where the apartments are located, joins several other newly formed neighbourhoods which have emerged since the 1990s to serve Amman's rapidly growing population. The neighbourhoods themselves are expediently organised with little consideration given to the quality of urban space. Buildings are typically four storeys above the level of the street with one or two basement storeys and below ground parking depending on the topography. Planning regulations dictate set backs from the site boundary which result in narrow under utilised strips of land and a lack of a coherent streetscape.
Construction is invariably concrete frame with blockwork infill and white limestone cladding. Facades are flat planes of white with small aluminium windows, external roller shutters and wall mounted air conditioning units. The interiors of these apartment buildings are generally poorly organised and finished to a low standard. They have low plasterboard ceilings, recessed spot lights, faux marble floor tiles and dark stained pine doors with rounded edges. Damp is very common and occurs for a number of reasons, including direct water ingress from roofs, windows and balconies as well as from condensation in the winter months caused by cold bridging through the structure and through the windows.
Being developer led housing, the apartment building in Hweteh confirms to much of this. It is four storeys, plus two basement floors, it occupies the whole of the set back area and is essentially a concrete frame with blockwork infill. It also however refers to examples of good housing development in Amman. Mainly projects from the 1980's, which take account of public space and attempt to establish continuity with buildings from previous eras. These projects begin to evolve an architecture which is derived from European modernism but which becomes specific in relation to climate, colour and the relationship between the public and the private.
The Al-Ola apartments are reminiscent of these projects. Bands of stone which protrude from the facade emphasise the horizontality of the volume and serve multiple functions. They provide shading, accommodate continuous planters which are irrigated with water collected from the roof and they conceal external roller shutters, allowing for a fully sealed building envelope. Alternating between the stone bands are strips of grey / pink render interrupted by windows and open South West facing loggias. While the construction utilises standard materials and known ways of building these are separated out and reorganised with a view to minimising cold bridging and improving the performance of the facade in both summer and winter.
Each floor consists of three dual aspect apartments separated by two top lit staircases. Their plans are organised in two halves which respond to the building’s orientation. Bedrooms, bathrooms and circulation spaces face North East and are therefore bright in the morning and cool in the evening, while living and entertaining spaces, which face South West, are bright throughout the day. Each apartment has a full height glazed loggia and a freestanding volume containing the kitchen. By limiting the extent to which the building deviates from other speculative housing and investing in design the cost of buying an apartment is kept in line with the market rates.