by Afra SafaFeb 09, 2023
Whenever a city is too populated, chaotic, and stressful, it is natural that the ones who have the means look for a place where they can refuge to when the vibe of the city becomes too oppressive. This location has to be far enough from the metropolitan to actually have the tranquility those individuals need and also be close enough to have fast access in case they need to return in short notice. The town of Damavand, on the outskirts of Tehran, is one such location. Near the highest peak of Middle East - Mount Damavand - it is far enough from the populated capital to give actual serenity in a unique climate but is also close enough to have very easy access to Tehran. Shahgholi Villa is a residential dwelling near this popular area, designed by Iran-based Farshad MehdiZadeh Design and was announced as 2021 category winner in the World Architecture Festival.
As a splendid destination for weekend getaways, the client commissioned a villa within a garden that brings about a different lifestyle than what is experienced as the routine city lifestyle in Tehran. Therefore, the question for the design team was, how can the design bring forth a new lifestyle different from the routine of the city?
As an architect sensitive to geographical contexts, Farshad Mehdizadeh looked for a solution in the geographical and social context of the location of this villa to create this new lifestyle: that is the ground, geographical characteristics, architectural elements, and more. He believes the aforementioned characteristics and behaviours can command the qualities of the diverse lifestyles experienced in different regions such as deserts, mountains, forests or coastal terrains.
A closer look at the region of the site shows that there are numerous garden fields that are defined by borders which are enforced by walls. The close proximity of these walls to each other produces the phenomenon of kucheh-bagh (literary garden alley) which is the marvel of northern Iranian villages. These are narrow alleyways with the greenery of the surrounding gardens pouring over the walls creating much needed shadows, cool and fresh air and therefore a beautiful traverse between streets and houses. Therefore, in this context the walls have a critical role to organise the privacy, borders, circulation and accesses. Yet they are not used as architectural elements to organise or generate the building inside. The building inside that garden is almost always an island within the border that has minimum role in the formal result of the whole garden.
Following the context of the location, it was decided that in this project the walls should stand out as a significant architectural element since they are a part of that garden fields structure. This design seeks to organise both the ground and the villa simultaneously and in close connection with each other by using the garden fields’ elements and form and the characteristics of the aforementioned “border walls”.
Iranian traditional architecture has a rich history of gardens and houses with central courtyards surrounded and organised by walls around them. In desert architecture life goes on inside the walls that surround the central courtyards. This is a design also seen in grand bazaars of cities such as Isfahan. Referencing to this strategy, the thickness of the walls that act as the border of the ground has been amplified on certain areas, which creates the mass of the villa that houses the life inside. Walls and volumes reach out from the original surrounding wall, each side communicating with the others internally.
In order to benefit the most from this technique and also attain privacy and avoid being overlooked by neighbouring houses, the base ground was lowered one level, so that the congealing of the wall creates both the villa and the landscape itself. To be further loyal to the architectural language of the project and create unique spatial conditions, the roofs are curved similar to the shape of the surrounding wall which has created soft lines and thus projects tranquility.
This results in creating unique characteristics for different spaces all around the villa and the ground itself. Each corner of the villa and the ground has spatial qualities unique to itself that differentiates it from the other spaces but it is also connected to other points in the dwelling. Thus, the villa houses the new kind of lifestyle that the users required - a perfect getaway.