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'A House in Jolfa District', designed by Iranian architects Ehsan Hosseini and Elham Geramizadeh from Logical Process in Architectural Design, sits modestly in a dense and old area of Isfahan in between ancient Armenian churches and old local cafes and small houses. The residential building was the winner of Iran's Memar Award 2021, an architecture award hosted by Memar Magazine. The location of the project in the Jolfa district of Isfahan dictated many limitations to this project. For instance, limits on the height of the buildings have been set to protect this area which is rich with valuable cultural heritage. Having a look at the context where 'A House in Jolfa District' is located would shed some light as to why this project has received such good response despite its humble appearance.
New Jolfa, named after the city of Jolfa in the East Azerbaijan province of Iran, is a district in Isfahan; Iran’s second largest city located in the centre of this country. Once the glorious capital of the Safavid dynasty (16th-18th century), Isfahan is home to astonishing Perso-Islamic architecture and many World Heritage Sites. At the heart of this city sits the Jolfa district, characterised by its large population of Christian Armenians. A population of Armenians was initially moved from Jolfa city and housed here by Shah Abbas Safavi, and then many other Armenians migrated to New Jolfa throughout the centuries, especially after the violence of the Ottoman Empire against them. Today Jolfa district is a beautiful, dense area and a tourist destination with magnificent ancient churches and trendy cafes. It is also lauded as a symbol of religious tolerance in a Muslim country.
Located close to Iran’s central desert, Isfahan is also known for its extensive gardens and tall trees that create shade and cool the air in the often harsh climate of the city. Considering this aspect of Iranian architecture, the architects were adamant to give this house a garden, for they have experienced as dwellers of this very city, that the well-being of the residents is in close contact with nature.
Height restriction and the denseness of the Jolfa district were serious challenges to their goal. Their solution was to dig a void in the house where a small garden could be formed in the basement. The house was sunk into the earth to create a deep garden below the surface level, where there is some shade to sit and rest from the warmth of the day and by which natural light can find its way inside the house. This empty shaft also creates natural ventilation, as the southern breeze is cooled in the shade of the garden and then travels through the inner spaces and exits from the backyard.
The entrance of the house is modest. Minimal black gates are juxtaposed with simple yet elegant brick architecture; also, an architectural element local and traditional to the Jolfa district, moreover a material that does not infuse or enhance the heat or cold absorbed from the outside and thus the best material for a city like Isfahan that experiences hot days and freezing nights.
The inner garden provides the residents with the benefit of natural light without feeling the harsh heat. It has also answered a sensitive cultural issue; the depth of the garden means that the family is safe from being overlooked by the adjoining houses which are in very close proximity. Apart from the main garden of the house, the void has given the design the space to create a tiny garden on each floor where different residents of the house can enjoy it alone or with a guest without disturbing the others.
The inside benefits from an open space concept and large glass walls on all floors allow the residents on different parts of the house to benefit from the view of the garden and the play of light formed by the leaves of the trees. The glass walls create a second inner layer to the house that shields it from the cold and hot weather. The external brick layer of the house is visible through this glass. The square-shaped hollows on the brick wall allow defused natural light to flow into the house.
The staircase design is a sharp contrast to the sterilised and sleek forms of the inner spaces. Although still white, their sharp edges and geometrical forms create a smart visual dynamism to the otherwise unified surroundings.
The spaces and floors are not only connected with means of circulatory elements, such as the elevator or the stairs, but are also interconnected through the shafts and the voids that are formed by the geometric design of the home. Life flows on different niches and pieces in 'A House in Jolfa District', currents that are separated from each other by the design but are also somehow interconnected, again by the magic of design. Perhaps the poetic sentences of the architects themselves can describe best the architectural concept of the House in Jolfa District:
A miniature is a collage of experience sequences,
the presence of time in the irregular connection of the spaces,
the entanglement of the back and forth; the outside and the inside.”
Name: A House in Jolfa District
Location: Isfahan, Iran
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: Logical Process Office
Design team: Ehsan Hosseini, Elham Geramizadeh, Shirin Sharif-o-nasab, Ahmmadreza Tavakoli
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