Beit Al Fannan

Nestled within the side of Jordan’s famous rolling hills, in true tetris fashion, sits Beit Al Fannan (House of the Artist). And these aren’t just any hills, they are the hills of Pella (طبقة فحل), one of the 10 ancient cities of the Decapolis from the Roman Empire. The foot of said hill is home to ancient ruins and mosaics that have the stood the test of time.

The house was once the studio and retreat of renowned Jordanian architect and artist Ammar Khammash, now an Airbnb stay. Here, 2 hours from Amman, he escaped the busy city life in order to paint his watercolour masterpieces. His knowledge of Jordan, whether it is the flora/fauna, or the nomadic villages that have developed over time, is evident here; garnering influence from the surrounding landscape and demographic within the structure itself.

The construction process involved no vehicles or machinery on site. The closest vehicle would park 60 meters away from the house and workers would walk to reach the house location. It was essential not to use any machinery; everything was made by hand, fine-tuned to be just in place and just right. This is how architecture was always made before the industrial revolution, and that is why most houses and villages matched their surroundings and terrain very well.

The house was made from pre-cast concrete blocks, plastered with mud from the outside and white cement and lime from the inside. The house sits on a cave, where all the mixing material came from. During construction, and so as not to disturb the surrounding land, we were digging and building simultaneously in the same spot. So as the cave expanded, the house grew bigger and bigger, literally out of the cave.

- http://www.khammash.com/projects/pella-house

Thank you to Baraka Destinations for letting me come and explore the property.

Using watercolour to depict the landscape as a tribute to Ammar Khammash (though it is not my forte).

The beautiful living room, ornate with his paintings and books, free for the visitor to use and admire. The low winter sun peers through the deep set windows, leaving the warmest glow with the earthy tones of the space.

The ruins of Pella below, as seen from the upstairs bedroom window.

The quaint kitchen opens up to a terrace full of fresh air, overlooking the hills of Pella.

The studio space in the upstairs bedroom, with a window view that perfectly frames the archeological ruins below.

Watercolor - 1981 , Ammar Khammash

25cmx22cm


Watercolor - 2008 , Ammar Khammash

26cmx24cm

From his book Notes On Village Architecture in Jordan (1986), Ammar lived with and documented the lifestyles of village tribes around Jordan. I feel that here is where he gained inspiration for the house; using mud mixed with hay to create a solid structure without a frame, the vaulting of the ceiling and the general primitive aesthetic.

Further up the hill is Khammash’s actual studio; a structure consisting of arches enclosing a large courtyard space. Overgrown shrubs and untouched dust shroud the place, but the charm of an abandoned studio still prevails, especially since canvases, tools and books are left intact.  

The house on the left, and the housekeeper’s residence on the right, as seen from the studio.