Preservation of the Double Window – The Problem

The Double Window of House XVIII has served as the logo for the Umm el-Jimal Project because it is the most fancy visible remain in a site full of functional domestic architecture.

House XVIII Double Window at sunrise

 Taken in 1905 by Howard Butler’s Princeton University team, the following photo shows the windows perched three stories high, pretty much as it does today. However, the walls of the room behind this facade collapsed between then and now, most likely in the earthquake of 1926. The masonry of the windows themselves is very fragile, and their stabilization has been the major technical challenge of the House XVII-XVIII preservation project.

The east facade of House XVIII as it looked in 1905

The next view shows the windows looking east from inside the courtyard before our preservation work of 2012 began.

Double Windows viewed from the west showing the collapsed interior walls

Closeups of the windows seen from the west and the east  show some of the weaknesses: the sill of the south window is missing; the south window post is precariously weak, while the north window post is fairly well buttressed; the south arch is slumping, and the north arch is popping up. Taken together, one could estimate the manner of a future collapse as follows: The south window post would collapse in a southerly direction, allowing the south are to fall down; under the force of this movement the center column could be tipped to the north, with the result that the north arch would explode upward.

Closeup of Double Window seen from the interior

Graphic rendering of Double Window exterior seen from the east

The next photo shows the missing sill from the outside and also makes the lack of buttressing support of the south (left) window post very clear.

Exterior of wall with Double Window seen from the southeast

As the view is rotated to the south (see next picture) it becomes clear that the top of the window wall is slumping quite far to the west. This brings up another possible collapse scenario: Were the movement of an earth tremor to be in a westerly direction, the stones above the south arch could easily topple westward and bring the west arch and then the entire window set with it.

View of window wall section from the south

A closeup of this wall section taken from the southwest (next photograph) highlights what’s already been obvious in previous pictures. The four courses of stones surviving above the south window arch for a critical mass that is delicately balanced, but slumping towards the west.

The Double Window from the southwest

Given that, this view of the south arch and the stones above it (see next photograph), merely affirms what has already become clear. Some of the weight needs to be taken of the south arch to relieve pressure from it and from the south window post.

Closeup of west arch and its stone overload

A further complication is the height of the the exterior wall, which makes it difficult to create a scaffold with a working platform from which to handle the stones (see next photograph).

Exterior wall with Double Window; Yarmouk University photographer Hussein Dabajah stands on the sill of another small window.

A further complication is that the semi-circular reservoir which supplied water to the household (see next photograph), is located directly below the Double Window. It is therefore difficult to create a firm base on which to erect the high scaffolding required to reach the windows.

Semi-circular reservoir at base of House XVIII exteriro east wall. The two rib walls are the tops of arches for supporting a flat reservoir roof cover.

SUMMARY: We concluded that the minimum repair for stabilization of the Double Window should include: (1) the repair of the wall and sill supporting the windows; (2) reinforcing of the south window post, and (3) the relieving of the excess weight on the south window arch.  How we did this will be the subject of the next blog post, PRESERVATION OF THE DOUBLE WINDOW – THE SOLUTION.

Text: Bert de Vries; color photographs: Bert de Vries and Muaffaq Hazza

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Preservation of the Double Window – The Problem

  1. dia‘a

    great work amazing Bert
    allah ya‘tekom ala‘afieh

  2. jehad al-sharaia

    Thank you for the great effort you’ve been doing, in Umm el Jimmal, i think you are right,saying that the double window is very fancy…
    Thanks again

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