Villa AM by MESURA carefully balances its design between preserving the core of this ancient building tradition and manifesting the mindset we find in the community of Jeddah today.
The house thus aims to rethink a traditional way of living. To design in Jeddah’s complexity, it’s vital to understand its traditions, values, and beliefs. Traditionally, the Arabian home functions both as a private sanctuary and social, semi-public space, which constitutes an interesting paradox still defining most of the local architecture today.
In Jeddah, this story goes back to the beginning of the country. The city is the historic heart of a modernising Saudi Arabia, which is characterised by a vast amount of vernacular architecture based on an ancient desert and Arabian culture —enriched by the presence of the sea and harbour. Contrary to popular assumptions, Jeddah is not Dubai.
In Jeddah, summers are long, sweltering, muggy, and arid, while winters are short, warm, dry, and windy. Aside from their social function, the exterior spaces of Arabian buildings (patios and rooftops) have an essential role in mitigating climatic factors. Since its foundation, the vernacular architecture in Jeddah has used its materials, courtyards and openings in an eco-efficient sense, creating cool and comfortable indoor home environments. Villa AM, in this sense, is no different.
The house looks for shade and breezes of air, which in Jeddah comes from the mythic North-West wind swaying about 10m above the ground. In order to get to that wind, the second floor of the house drops to the back, creating a second patio looking out onto the city and the sunset to the West while alleviating the shape of the volume. Meanwhile, an outside passageway downstairs generates natural cooling across the ground floor.
Villa AM incorporates the family’s openness, generosity and contemporary mindset. Though privacy is still present in the home’s programme, the house uses its L-shaped form to create a closer relationship between family and guest by blurring its spatial limits and using the garden as in-between areas to connect the two visually. The house thus becomes a fluid entity —an initial step towards a new kind of domestic architecture in Jeddah.