A look at Jee Gallery reconstruction, a new addition to Tehran’s art district

Iranian architects Alborz Nazari and Amin Hosseinirad carry out the reconstruction of Jee Gallery, turn an old residential house to a contemporary art gallery in the centre of Tehran.

by Afra SafaPublished on : Oct 10, 2022

Within the micro-climate of Iranian architecture, the transformation of old buildings - which belong to the pre-1979 revolution - to cultural centres and art galleries in the centre of Iran’s capital is a movement formed in the recent two decades by private owners as a form of resistance against the state-supported acceleration of demolition and replacement of such buildings with soulless multi-storey constructions.

Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
The facade of Jee Gallery Image: Courtesy of Deed Studio

An interesting case study of this redevelopment resistance is an art gallery transposed in a residential structure. Designed by Iranian architect Alborz Nazari / Amin Hosseinirad, Jee Gallery transforms a house built on a small land of 125 square meters. The home sits in an advantageous urban position at Tehran’s Keshavarz Boulevard, an iconic avenue registered as a National Heritage that connects the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art to the art district of the city, encasing the northern side of Tehran University and has several iconic landmarks along its length. However, the house is built in a plot that is 12 meters long and 5.9 meters wide, located in a very narrow dead-end lane, creating issues that impose serious limitations on the functions and design of the structure. 

Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
Jee Gallery: diagrams Image: Courtesy of Alborz Nazari

The most important characteristic of the original house is its southern yard and its basement. Yet the view and access to the street were limited and the road is narrow for a commercial space, such as a gallery. To carry out the owner's vision to transform this house into a multi-purpose gallery and contemporary art centre the building is divided into two sections. The main spaces are on the southern side and are an extension of the garden, and on the northern side, the service spaces are located which are connected through a light shaft. The basement and the ground floor house the functionalities of the gallery and the mid floors are dedicated respectively to an art shop and café that benefits from the roof and the terrace. The administrative office and restrooms are located on the voids of the staircases and storage is designed to occupy the space roof.

Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
Jee Gallery's entrance before and after the reconstruction Image: Courtesy of Alborz Nazari

The core idea of the reconstruction is to create an intertwined gallery which allows the experience of different perspectives and spaces while maximising the sectional continuity. The spacious-sectional porosity allows for layering of the perspectival views it offers to the spectator. This creates a very fluid exchange of aesthetics between the facade design and the interior design of the gallery.

  • Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
    Jee Gallery: plans Image: Courtesy of Alborz Nazari
  • Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
    Jee Gallery: sections Image: Courtesy of Alborz Nazari
  • Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
    Jee Gallery: interior view Image: Courtesy of Deed Studio

What we have now is a construction that has an undeterred connection with the urban fabric despite its alien features among the adjoining buildings. The gallery needed to be visible from the street, so the architects found a way to twist the limitations of the narrow passageway by merging the border of the house with the road as much as possible. When the gallery is open, its frameless gates open completely and allow the city inside. The grey concrete of the stairs and the floors gives a sense of continuation from the city to the inside spaces.

  • Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
    Jee Gallery's entrance before the reconstruction happened Image: Courtesy of Alborz Nazari
  • Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
    Jee Gallery post the makeover Image: Courtesy of Alborz Nazari

The elevation and relegation of the floor in the courtyard as well as the stairs create a space for meeting and interactions. This is a smart design since galleries in Tehran are known to be meeting points for the intertwined community of artists and culture lovers. The pleasant space of the garden enhanced by the designed plants and thoughtful luminosity is enough of an excuse for art enthusiasts to remain inside Jee Gallery a while longer.

  • Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
    The courtyard of the art gallery Image: Courtesy of Deed Studio
  • Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
    The stairs with shelves for the purpose of displaying sculptures Image: Courtesy of Deed Studio

The facade design is characterised by a white square motif lattice work that strives to be a bridge between the sharp angles of the contemporary design and the latticework traditional to the old buildings of the area. Apart from its aesthetics that may or may not be to one's taste, it serves the same function of reducing the southern light that enters the terrace and the interior spaces. The surfaces of the facade are washed cement that used to be a trend in the buildings of that area so that it can be a continuity of the urban fabric of that district.

Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
Jee Gallery's new attractive facade stands out in the street Image: Courtesy of Deed Studio

The glass transparent doors invite the spectator to step inside. As with most white-cube galleries, Jee Gallery’s spaces are also open, white, and minimalistic. The bricks used on the ceilings and some of the walls although still give warmth to the otherwise sleek spaces and remind us of the true age and heritage of the building. This is enhanced by the selection of scarce furniture that carries a sense of nostalgia for the Iranian public.

Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
The cafe at the art gallery Image: Courtesy of Deed Studio

The mix of white and grey of the stairs and the floors are calming to the people who use the building. The inner spaces are both open and closed, transparent and hidden. The facade protects the inside from the prying eyes of the taller buildings and yet the glass doors and windows create inviting transparency. The mixture creates dynamic perspectives which is the core idea of the project.

Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
Jee Gallery before and after restoration Image: Deed Studio

The northern spaces are connected through a light shaft extended from the roof to the basement. The inside of the shaft is beautifully made by brown-coloured bricks. Reminiscent of old Sardabs, a brick-made structure used to keep houses cool during summer, it is an aesthetically pleasing reference to the city’s heritage. The scorching summer light of Tehran is diffused as it finds its way inside the inner spaces.

Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
Jee Gallery before and after restoration Image: Deed Studio

The project is characterised by a three metre ceiling, fluid communication with the street, segmented floor space and architectural elements such as its staircase design that is faithful to the original design. Transparency control is another element that makes this project alluring.

Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
The window on this floor functions as a large showcase Image: Courtesy of Deed Studio

At night Jee Gallery is beautifully illuminated. This time around the light that finds itself from the inside is diffused and controlled by the latticework and makes the revived building sparkle like a cube of stars.

Jee Gallery, Tehran, Iran | Jee Gallery by Alborz Nazari | Amin Hosseinirad | STIRworld
Jee Gallery night view Image: Deed Studio

Tehran's city centre has witnessed numerous projects such as Jee Gallery replace the rusty urban fabric and the old houses. Despite their initial aesthetical alienness and social unfamiliarity of the communities they host with the local ones, such projects have been relatively successful to save such houses from destruction and create a space for different communities to mingle. 

Project Details

Name: Jee Gallery
Location: Tehran, Iran
Area: 125 m2
Year of completion: 2019-2020
Architect: Alborz Nazari / Amin Hosseinirad

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