by Zohra KhanOct 26, 2022
A restoration venture by Rasta design studio in Qaemshahr in the north of Iran, Tabarestan Steel Foundry opened the doors of its new office in 2021. The client wished for the expansion of the office spaces and improvement of the overall appearance of the building's façade. Founded in 1983, Tabarestan Steel Foundry is one of the significant names in the industry in Iran.
An analysis and the field research carried out by the Iranian architects Roozbeh Qolipoor and Radman Davanloo brought to the fore various issues that needed to be addressed. Thus, the architects extended the goal of the design to boost the working space quality in the foundry’s office.
The architects were also driven by the limitations and capacities that the building dictated to them. The abandoned warehouse of mould casting was redesigned to function as a showroom and conference room space; a new floor for office areas, as well as a guard glass box that formed the lobby and main entrance of the foundry office, was added to the shed. Trees and greenery were added in all the passageways and corners of the building.
The restoration project of Tabarestan Steel Foundry is poetry of contrasts in material and form. The modern and cold hardness of steel is juxtaposed with the age and warmth of bricks. The stretched symmetrical single-point perspectives of rectangular spaces are interrupted by diagonal asymmetrical lines of elements such as the stairs and the thresholds. Straight lines and sharp angles sit beside curved pipes. The seriousness of manufacturing and industry is put together with the lightness of art and plants.
The colour palette used in both the design of the exterior and the interior is black and red although whites and greys balance the role between the two. The two shades make an eye-catching picture on the façade of the building, the shiny texture giving it a futuristic and science-fiction aura.
Inside, the redness of the bricks maintains the same palette with the stark black of the steel used on the stairs, the railings, the pillars, window frames and other selected elements.
The white surfaces of the walls and the smooth grey of the floor interrupt the red and black tones and despite their humble appearance have a significant role in balancing out the colours. Without these grey surfaces, the excessive use of black and white would be suffocating.
The Iranian architecture firm has made extensive use of steel as the main material, making the office function as a gallery and marketing tool for the Tabarestan Steel Foundry and its product. Yet they balance out the uninviting nature of steel with the generous use of clay-coloured bricks, which has given an immense amount of warmth to the interior of the project and made the vastness of the space seem cosier.
Additionally, the use of glass for the exterior walls and in between spaces balances the black opaqueness of the steel with light and transparency.
From the outside, the building is a box with two compartments. The sharp angles and rectangular shapes are also repeated inside. They are observed everywhere, on the walls, the stairs and even the plant boxes all around the space. The distorted angles on some thresholds are reminiscent of distorted modernist paintings. The sharpness of the forms and angles is also a reminder of the industrialised environment this office design represents.
The exposed ceiling also contributes to the industrialised feeling of the space. The curve of the pipes and the exposed structures are in harmonious colour with the pillars and stairs and windows but their smooth bends create contrast with the sharpness of the latter.
Light plays an important role in the design. In the spaces that are exposed to the outer walls, the rooms are showered with natural light, such as the entrance on the left. In the inner spaces defused natural light is guided in through the glass ceiling. The selected but concentrated artificial light is utilised to emphasise certain elements such as the artwork and the plants to create an aesthetical dynamic.
Although the building is mainly a two-story cube, the inside plan optimises the resources of the space to be used simultaneously as an office, a meeting place, and a showroom of achievements.
The main guest entrance on the left is designed to receive visitors in a space full of natural light which also has a view of the surrounding land. Moreover, the glass makes this room transparent at night and creates an inviting sensation for the approaching visitor. This reception also has proper comfort facilities for the guards and receptionists such as toilets, a small kitchen, and a lounge.
The visitor is then guided to the gallery room where the background and achievements of the Foundry are showcased and on the other side the conference room is visible through the glass. The conference room itself has a view of the green space outside that can be closed off with shutters.
The other more private entrance on the right leads the visitor through a black box that functions as a threshold but also serves to maintain the privacy of the conference room and allow the people to pass and access the staircase without disturbing ongoing meetings.
Climbing the steel staircase and having a glance at the hanging artwork, the visitor is led to a small waiting room. On either side of this floor, separate managerial rooms are considered with balconies with views of the foundry’s facilities.
The restoration project of Tabarestan Steel Foundry has given a new contemporary soul to a building that is more than four decades old. The use of plants, glass, and a mixture of soft and hard materials and forms are efforts made on the architects' part to incorporate transparency and higher quality of work environment which are all in line with the foundry’s objectives to reduce the intensity of the pollutants, reuse the waste created by the industry and create better working conditions.
The restoration of the foundry office also acts as a successful marketing tool for an aged industry to renew itself. Through contemporary architecture, an utterly new visual identity is given to a successful old factory.