Issue n. 459 is dedicated to contemporary architecture in Tehran. A selection of recent projects in the Iranian capital raises questions about the more general issue of how the language of contemporary architecture can be used to filter and update the customs and typical elements of a millenary culture.
This issue also looks at how to reconcile the impositions of globalisation and the need to open up to other cultures, while respecting local history, traditions and climatic conditions. And, finally, how to revolutionise the spaces and forms of dwelling without renouncing one’s roots. A mosaic of very different fragments – as Alessandra De Cesaris emphasises in her introductory essay – Tehran has grown rapidly and chaotically from the mid-1900s onward. The myth of the automobile was assumed as the preferred model of urban development. This metropolis adopted its own process of modernisation, with heavy-handed interventions that often destroyed historic monuments and severed ties with the past and produced eclectic and very low quality constructions. Some years ago, a new generation of architects, largely educated in the country’s schools of architecture after the Islamic Revolution, embarked on an interesting quest for renewal that pursues two principal lines of action. The first sees the definition of new models of public spaces as a possible means for favouring social interaction and improving the quality of urban space on the whole; the other approach experiments with languages that update the traditions and typical forms and elements of local architecture to respond to the needs of a more contemporary lifestyle.
CONTEMPORARY TEHRAN: A CITY OF MANY CITIES - Pg. 6
Alessandra De Cesaris
INTERVIEW WITH REZA DANESHMIR Ι FLUID MOTION ARCHITECTS - Pg. 22
edited by Alessandra De Cesaris
The site is one of the most important in Tehran, at the intersection of Enghelab, the east-west axis that bisects the city, and Vali-e-asr, the sycamore-lined road that winds for more than twenty kilometers from north to south connecting upper and lower city. The mosque is located in front of Daneshju Park and the city theater, an emblematic building of modernist culture, built in the seventies by the last shah and perceived by many as an important legacy of that period. The solution proposed by Fluid Motion thoroughly reinvents the mosque typology, as codified in modern times beginning with the Shah Mosque in Isfahan. The design can be retraced to the simple and horizontal character of the very first mosques, in particular the mosque of Qubā’, which according to historians was once the home of Muhammad, characterized by a courtyard enclosed by a wall.
The Book Garden, a large space of 65,000 square meters aiming to be the largest hub in the world dedicated to books, features thirteen separate blocks, connected on different levels and surmounted by a green cover, to be completed, that extends along a surface of about 25,000 square meters. Eight of the thirteen blocks are dedicated to the lobby and the main entrances and create a large internal public space that can accommodate up to five thousand visitors at rush hours. Furthermore, the Book Garden is intrinsically multifunctional; it houses spaces dedicated to books but also a movie theatre, an auditorium and a science park for children, in addition to art galleries and exhibition spaces. All functions are connected by a strong spatial continuity that is articulated on both levels and, as stated by the designers, stems from variations on three key concepts: modular flexibility of spaces, transparency and fluid mobility of visitors.
The Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge is a pedestrian bridge located north of Tehran, in the Abbas Abad Lands area. The project originates from the need to connect two public parks separated by an alluvial valley where the Modarres Highway, one of the main and busiest motorways in the city, is located. The bridge, however, is not exclusively a work meant to link two points but rather a complex architecture capable of redefining in contemporary terms the very concept of infrastructure. On the one hand, the project reproduces the Persian tradition of “inhabited bridges”, on the other it interprets, in the best possible way, a contemporary tendency that considers infrastructure an urban generator. The decision to develop the bridge on three levels has the objective of creating a series of spaces in which parking areas with rest facilities alternate with panoramic viewpoints, cafés and restaurants, articulating a public space where staying becomes as important as passing.
Orsi Khaneh, the residential building designed by Keivani Architects in Teheran between 2013 and 2015, is characterized by a strong relationship with the genius loci, expressed through the reinterpretation of traditional elements of Iranian architecture. The project, in fact, takes its name from the Orsi window, a typical element of traditional Iranian houses, composed of a geometric pattern of wood and coloured glass, which ensured lighting and ventilation control, regulating the degree of privacy of the rooms. Starting from this premise, the architects succeed in re-proposing the theme of the traditional window with a contemporary language, working on the relationship between tradition and innovation. The Orsi window is reinterpreted through the design, on the façade, of a screen of wood and coloured glass that, in some places, can be opened or closed in order to shade the light and modulate the transparencies. To avoid great heating absorption caused by the use of stained-glass, the designers created a double skin by positioning frosted stained glass externally and the transparent glass internally, reducing thermal storage in the summer and preventing heat loss during winter months.
Sharifi-ha House, the residential structure built by Next Office in 2013, approaches the typical aspects of contemporary living without neglecting to draw constant inspiration from the fundamental characteristics of Iranian domestic space. The project, in fact, through the design of a dynamic façade, that can be transformed thanks to three large rotating wooden boxes, brings together the introverted aspect of traditional architecture in hot and dry regions with the extroverted character of houses located in hot and humid areas. Access to the building is through a courtyard in which a large pool with a glass bottom spreads light onto two underground levels, where the swimming pool and the gym will be located; a suspended staircase leads to the first of four residential floors, the lower two intended for the family’s public activities, the upper two for private life. The open space, which in traditional houses is always located at the center of the house, protected from the rest of the city, is here reinterpreted through the design of a large, full-height void onto which the living spaces look out; the theme of the garden, on the other hand, is re-read both in the design of the courtyard, where the element of the pool is reiterated, and in the design of the green covering.
The Imam Reza Complex is located within an intensely built-up urban fabric along the great Enghelab road axis, one of the Iranian capital’s major arterial roads, that cuts the city lengthwise for about five kilometers. While approaching the area that houses the complex, the first striking feature is the unique shape of the roof, that evokes the image of a pair of intertwined hands, symbolizing the architects’ intention of making this building a gathering and meeting place for the different social and cultural groups that populate this area of the capital. To this end, the designers have created a multitasking space that hosts multiple functions under one roof – a mosque, an art gallery, a bookstore/café, an amphitheater and an area with multimedia stations – and able to attract different typologies of users.
The center is located in southern Tehran, in an area of industrial factories partially fallen into disuse, characterized by a chaotic urban growth. Just south of the project area owned by the municipality some existing industrial factories and a garden with centenarian trees were included in the open space design. A series of constraints have oriented the designers towards the development of a vertical building: the rectangular dimension of the area, the municipal rules regulating the distance from borders, the requirement to create a green area and the presence of underground water preventing construction of more than two underground floors.On this strip, measuring one hundred meters in length and twenty meters in width, the multiple required functions were arranged: cultural activities on the east side and sports on the west side, while in the center a large void space connects the main entrance to the existing garden.
The Mellat Park Cineplex, the innovative multi-screen designed by Fluid Motion Architects, is located next to the mountains at the north of Tehran, in a narrow area between Mellat Park and the Niayesh Highway. The project unfolds on an elongated and irregular lot, following its longitudinal configuration. On the one hand, with its large size, fluid lines and raw materials the building states its powerful presence in the landscape; on the other, the continuity with the park’s paths and the view of the mountains in the background perfectly integrate it into the context. The architectural composition focuses entirely on the play between discordance and integration, modernity and tradition. The four movie theatres, arranged in pairs facing each other, are located on the ground floor and in the basement, positioned in between the two end blocks reserved for administrative functions and services, and are connected by a system of curved walkways that define the space and shape the façades.
- Architettura come impegno civile. I memoriali di Oscar Niemeyer - Pag. 92
– Ettore Sottsass alla Triennale di Milano – Pag. 95
– Comunicare la democrazia. Una mostra a Palazzo Montecitorio a Roma – Pag. 98
– Fare cittadinanza con la bellezza. L’esperienza di Librino in Sicilia – Pag. 102
– Utopie radicali a Firenze – Pag. 104
NOTIZIE - Pag. 108
LIBRI - Pag. 112
INDICE 2017 - Pag. 113
PANTOGRAFO - Pag. 121
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