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view of Darat al Funun taken from downtown Amman in the 1930's

old view of main building before renovation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

renovation without sacrificing the spirit of the original

The traditional Amman residences which now house Darat al Funun were built in the 1920s at a time of urban expansion initiated by the leading families of Amman, Salt and other towns in Jordan, Palestine and Syria. Located on a quiet hilltop, they overlooked the small Circassian village that occupied Amman's central valley. Today, they are in one of the oldest residential districts of the city, within easy reach of the downtown area.Darat al Funun thus fulfills a double purpose within the framework of the Foundations goals. It preserves the country's heritage by restoring for use beautiful architectural examples of their time, whilst bringing art to a more populated area of the city and making it accessible to a wider segment of society.

The site consists of three buildings, and the remains of a 6th century Byzantine church. The main three storey building of he complex served until 1938 as the official residence of the British Commander of the Arab Legion, Colonel F. G. Peake, and afterwards as a club for the British Officers until 1956 and the Arabization of the Arab Legion. The house has been renovated in its original form by architect Ammar Khammash. He has retained its three bay plan and transformed it into three interconnecting exhibition galleries, whose elevated ceilings permit daylight to penetrate through windows into the interior. Artist studios and workshops occupy the ground floor. The addition of a library on the roof harmoniously blends the new with the old. Twin external staircases rise from the garden to a grand, semi-circular entrance portico. With its limestone walls, and ornamented tiles covering the interior floors, the house is one of Amman's few protected examples of Jordan's modern architectural history.

In 1994, a second building was renovated to accommodate more exhibition spaces, a hall for lectures and video film presentations, and the administrative offices.

The house, built by workers from the Jordanian Circassian community, was once inhabited by Ismail Haqqi, former Governor of Akka in Palestine and later, for sometime, advisor to Peake Pasha. A distinctive Circassian porch was added during the recent restoration. A fountain surrounded by trees in the front courtyard creates a perfect setting for a small cafe where visitors, students and artists can meet.

The third building dating from the same period was once lived in by Sheikh Fouad al Khateeb, poet and for a time advisor at the Court of the Emir Abdullah. Later, in the mid 1950s, it was inhabited by Prime Minister Suleiman Nabulsi. In 1995 it was restored to serve as quarters and studios for visiting artists.

In the southern gardens of the main building are the ruins of a 6th century Byzantine church and an old cave. The site was first identified in the last century by Major C.R.Conder, who excavated part of the church. At the beginning of the 20th century, R.Savignac and M.Abel recorded two inscriptions among the ruins, one of which may indicate that the church was dedicated to St.George. The other raises the possibility that the church was built over or near a Roman temple dedicated to Hercules.In 1992, with the blessing of the Ministry of Tourism and Department of antiquities, the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation approached Dr. Pierre Bikai, Director of the American Center for Oriental Research (ACOR), to excavate and restore the church. Remnants of a mosaic floor was unearthed and ancient artifacts recovered from the site are on display in a special room in the library.

The 23-meter-long church, comprising a nave and two aisles, surrounded by the gardens, now provides a dramatic outdoor setting for the performing arts that form a part of Darat al Funun's multi-faceted program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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