The residence of Hussein Jamil is one of Rifat Chadirji's earliest works. It was built between 1953 and 1955 in the Masbah neighborhood of Baghdad. Its design exemplifies the architect's desire to both innovate and maintain a sense of regionalism through the incorporation of traditional ideas, realized in a modern way.
The house sits on a long, narrow lot, where it occupies the entire width of the central portion toward the back of the lot. It is approached from the front by a long pathway on the right leading to the main entrance, and a driveway on the left leading to a covered garage on the other end of the facade. The space between these two paths was left open for a garden. A semicircular drive from the street at the back of the lot also gives access to the rear of the house.
The house is built on two floors, with ample open areas that communicate between indoor and outdoor spaces. Chadirji called these spaces tarma (pl. tarmat), a term whose traditional meanings include pavilion or kiosk, and can also denote the arcade around a central courtyard, one of the main components of traditional domestic architecture in Baghdad.1
The main entrance to the house is in a recessed paved area on the right end of its front facade. Glass double doors open onto an indoor "tarma," a large courtyard-like space covered by a roof with large skylights. Directly across from the entrance on the other side of the roofed courtyard is a door leading onto a hallway which gives access to the guest areas of the home, located at the back of the house. This unit includes a reception room, dining room, and covered porch that gives access to a second story roof deck. These reception areas overlook the back drive, patio, and garden.
The left wall of the large "tarma" at the entrance is composed of sliding glass doors. Behind these is a hall with a fireplace and staircase leading to the second floor. This hall gives access on one end to a bedroom and office, both which face the front of the house, and on the other to a private wing including the kitchen, storage rooms, and the garage.
Ascending the flight of stairs on the hallway behind the glass wall mentioned above, one reaches a rectangular hall on the second floor, which opens on its long side onto a large roof deck covering the space above the reception areas on the ground floor. On each of the second floor hall's short sides, a door gives onto a suite of two bedrooms and a bathroom, one opening onto the front and one to the back side of the house via balconies.
A separate staircase from the garage leads to a private, enclosed roof deck and a bedroom for a servant.
Chadirji discusses the traditional Baghdad house in Al-Ukhayḍir, 34-41.
Chadirji, Rifat. Al-Ukhayḍir w’al-Qaṣr al-Billawrī: nushū‘ al-naẓariyya al-jadaliyya fī al-‘imāra. London and Cyprus: Riad El-Rayyes, 1991.
Al-Sulṭānī, Khālid. Rif‘at al-Jādirjī: mi‘mār, 138.Amman: Adib Books, 2016.