Stone as Wall Paper: The Evolution of Stone as a Sheathing Material in Twentieth-Century Amman





The Use of Stone in Amman by May Shaer 

Stone Samples




A documentation project carried out in 2000 by the Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE) and the Conservation and Restoration Center in Petra (CARCIP) in association with the ArchNet project.

Funding for this project has been provided by the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ).

Project team:

Fatin Abdullah; Diala Anabtawi; Mohammad al-Asad; Lina As’ad; Aghlab al-Attili; Ala Gammoh; Fady Haddadin; Thaer Haj Ahmad (project coordinator); Hani Imam Hussaini; Kawthar Jeddah; Shadi Jibreel; Miriam Jubeh; Hania Maraqa; Ola Musa; Rula Najati; May Shaer; Hana Sharaf; Ali al-Shibly; Janset Shwash; Shadi al-Yousef; and Samer Younis

This is the first phase of a project that aims at documenting the historical use of stone as a sheathing material for walls in Jordan. This first phase documents twentieth-century Amman, which provides clearly defined locational and chronological parameters. Although Amman has historical roots dating to the earliest pre-historic times, the city was deserted by the fourteenth century to only be resettled in the late nineteenth century. However, almost none of the structures of modern Amman predate the twentieth century. Therefore, this project covers a range that includes Amman’s earliest modern structures as well as its most recent ones.

In dealing with stone as a sheathing material, the following database primarily aims at providing both textual and visual information on the dressing of stone and the patterns created by it. Also, we have provided additional information such as the locations of the structures being documented, their dates, and their architects. A few explanatory notes should be given about such additional information. The locations include both the area in which the structure is located and the street address for it. Such information helps one locate the structure in relation to the city, and also allows one to visit it. However, street addresses are not widely used in Amman and there were a few cases for which we were not able to locate street numbers for the structures being documented. In such cases we only provided the street names.

Concerning dates, which allow us to tie the samples together chronologically, we have provided the decades to which these buildings belong since such structures usually have been built over a period of a few years. In many cases, we were able to obtain specific dates for these structures. However, in some cases, such specific dates were not available since the original residents or owners could not be located, or the documents that might provide such dates were not available to us. In such cases, we were able to estimate the dates for the buildings through a number of means including the location of the building in the city since different parts of the city were developed at certain periods. We also depended on examining the architectural features of the structures, which usually give sufficient information about the period to which they belong. In general, we believe that the results we have obtained for the dates are reliable, but when in doubt concerning the dates, we have indicated that they are approximate in nature.

Concerning architects, we have provided the names of the architects whenever they were available to us. In this context, it should be kept in mind that the earlier structures in Amman were not designed by architects, but by the builders themselves, and no documentation usually exists concerning the identities of these builders. In fact, it was not until the 1950s, and the founding of the Jordanian Engineers Association (to which architects in Jordan belong) that architects began to be more fully entrusted with the design of structures in Amman. Of course, whenever new or more specific information becomes available concerning street addresses, dates, or names of architects we will add that information to the database.

The documentation for this project includes an article by May Shaer that provides information on the evolution of the use of stone in Amman as a sheathing material for buildings, and on the various tools and methods used in the dressing of stone. Also, definitions of the various Arabic terms used for different types of stone dressing can be found in this article. As for the database, it includes over eighty samples with textual data and an image for each sample. The database is searchable and can be organized according to the various entries it includes such as dates, type of stone dressing, arrangement of stone blocks, … etc.

We hope that this project will be of considerable benefit for architects, clients, researchers, and students interested in stone. We are working on developing and expanding the project’s database and we welcome any comments that its users might have about it.

We would like to thank Dr. Helge Fischer, Project Director, Petra Stone Project – GTZ for the considerable support he has provided for this project.