"Listening to the Land" focuses on architect Ammar Khammash, whose approach to architecture differs markedly from many others in his field.
For students: We hope this guide sharpens your reading skills and deepens your understanding.
For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from AramcoWorld, by teachers at any level.
Common Core Standards met in this lesson: RI9-10.1/RI9-10.3 (see details below).

—The Editors
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[email protected].
—Julie Weiss


Listening to the Land: In His Own Words

"Listening to the Land" focuses on architect Ammar Khammash, whose approach to architecture differs markedly from many others in his field. Khammash speaks eloquently about his beliefs about architecture, architects and the natural environment. For this activity, you will use Khammash's own words to develop an understanding of the man and his creations. By the time you read the article and complete these activities, you will be able to:
  • Explain how Ammar Khammash's approach differs from that of many other architects.
  • Use Khammash's own words to analyze the Royal Academy for Nature Conservation building.
  • Compare and contract the Royal Academy for Nature Conservation building's design with the design of another building in your community or elsewhere.
An Architect's Beliefs

Ammar Khammash's beliefs inform how he designed the building in "Listening to the Land." Read the article. Khammash's words (listed below) fall into three categories. Make a separate sheet of chart paper for each category, and copy onto each page the quotations listed here. Hang the tree charts in three different parts of the classroom. Divide the class into thirds, assigning each group to one of the categories. With your group members, stand by your group's list of quotes. Consider each statement, holding it up (figuratively) to the RSCN's building If you are in the first group, for example, start by discussing whether or not the building "is not visible," using the article and the photos that accompany it as evidence to support your point of view. Do the same with the other statements. When the groups are done, have each group move to the next chart paper and repeat the exercise with the quotes there. And repeat for the third site. Your overarching question is this: How does the building exemplify Khammash's beliefs…

…about architecture?
  • "I don't want my buildings to be visible."
  • "Buildings should not become monuments or luxury statements."
  • "Architecture has been hijacked by the visual."
…about architects?
Ammar Khammash also has strong beliefs about architects in general, and about himself as an architect in particular. Who is he as an architect? What does he aspire to? How does he go about his work? Think about these questions by using the following quotations as your guide.
  • "I don't want to be visible."
  • "Whoever was driving the last bulldozer … never knew that he was designing the front elevation of my building for me. He left a cliff and I followed it."
  • "The site is the architect, and I listen to it. Ultimately, I'm just a draftsman, a technician under the site's command."
…about the natural environment?
Finally, consider how Khammash thinks about his buildings in relation to the natural environment. Use these quotations to guide you.
  • "Why should we cut another wound in nature when we already have this one?"
  • "The bend mirrors the profile line of the quarry outside."
How Does RSCN's Building Compare?

Now that you have a good understanding of Khammash's RSCN building and the beliefs that inform it, you can learn even more about it and about architecture by comparing it to another building. Working with your group, identify another building to compare it to. You might choose a building in your own community, or a famous building you have visited, or a building designed by a famous architect. First, does the building fit with an, some, or all of Khammash's beliefs? Then do some research about the building or about the style in which it is built. Working backwards, see if you can infer what beliefs informed the design of the building you are analyzing. Based on what the building reveals to you, what do you think an architect might have said to describe the beliefs about architecture, architects and the natural environment that shaped this building's design? Put together your analysis in a presentation and have each group share its work with the others.

Common Core Standards met in this lesson:

RI9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

 RI9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.