Sijal Institute for Arabic Language and Culture
Sijal Institute for Arabic Language and Culture is located on Omar Bin Khattab street in Jabal Amman overlooking Jabal Al-Ashrafiyeh.
It occupies the lower levels and terraced garden of a Damascene family house built in the 1930s. The original building consisted of just three monolithically constructed rooms located centrally on the site. It was added to both horizontally and vertically through the 1950's and 1970's, registering the formal and constructional norms of those periods. The section of the institute consists of a series of descending spaces. You enter from the street and go down a steep stair to the entrance hall and lounge space; a couple more steps take you down into the study space and onto the terrace, then several more steps into the lower garden. This gives you the feeling of being connected to and oriented within the surrounding landscape and allows for natural ventilation.
Our interventions were minimal and designed to reveal the existing qualities of the building, turning them towards the functions of the institute - a place for learning (both formal and informal) as well as a venue for a cultural programme consisting of lectures, screenings, performance and exhibitions. For example, the plan of the original tripartite building - a central space flanked by two adjacent spaces with large double doors and internal windows - gave us the organisation of the classrooms and administrative spaces which are peripheral and the communal and study spaces which are central. The classrooms are brightly lit and could be used as exhibition spaces while the communal central spaces are more intimate and domestic feeling. These qualities are emphasised through the choice of furnishings and wall colours.
The original concrete floor of the garden was treated expediently with a covering of gravel. Irregularly shaped flower beds were located in relation to existing almond, mulberry, olive and pomegranate trees and filled with blue flowering Vinca. The planting, which was designed by landscape architect Lara Zureikat, takes advantage of the terraces and stepped retaining walls with hanging geraniums and verbena and speaks to domestic Amman gardens of the 1950's.