A look at one of Saudi Arabia's finest examples of Hejazi architecture
On the outskirts of Jeddah, on a regular looking street of white, high-walled villas, Sami Angawi’s house cuts a distinctive figure.
Built and designed in traditional Hejaz style, Al Makkiyah has more in common with the dilapidated coral houses of Jeddah’s old town than the affluent whitewashed suburbs. Angawi’s family home was designed and built around his al mizan philosophy, and uses a mixture of modern and traditional materials and techniques.
Its unusual form is immediately notable. The house is wider in the north than the south to catch the northerly wind in every room. The wind is drawn in through the roshan, wooden window boxes, which also act as screens to provide privacy. The house has air-conditioning throughout, but it is only used when it is really needed.
This mixture of old and new, of both roshan and air conditioning, is also reflected in the materials that Angawi used to build the house. The exterior is made of stone and wood, utilising traditional woodwork and local builders, but at the same time the structure is reinforced by concrete beams and columns.
Access to natural light is another important factor in the house, and Angawi designed the structure so that every room receives sunlight. But it is not just a mix of old and new that is epitomised by Angawi’s home, it is a mixture of architectural styles and techniques which, like Hejazi culture, has been formed over generations of travellers to the region during Hajj.
The overwhelming presence of wood in the architecture of Jeddah, Mecca and Medina is because the ships that transported pilgrims home would come back laden with wood, while the techniques and traditions of designers and labourers from Syria, Iraq, Persia and North Africa influenced the region’s architecture.
The stone work in much of the house is a mixture of Moroccan ceramics and the Syrian stone, with the yellow stone coming from Syria and the green from Morocco. On the floor of the pool is a Persian carpet design, made with Turkish ceramics. Angawi points out that it is a often thought that all of this intricate work is expensive, but this is a misconception – one of the principles of al mizan is striking a crucial balance between affordability and beauty.
The last factor to consider at Al Makkiyah is the social function of the house, something that is as important in Saudi Arabia as it is anywhere in the world. Firstly, the house achieves a separation between the public and private areas. Angawi receives hundreds of visitors a month, but his family is still able to live in the house in relative peace. Above all, Angawi is keen to stress that his house is not an example of Saudi Arabian architecture, but of Hejaz. His house would not work in Riyadh or Al Khobar, it is suited to Jeddah’s coastal climate, where architects have been using similar techniques for generations.