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Traditional Iranian roots become an architectural identity for Next Office

Next Office's design of the Civic Centre in Sadra, Iran, is an example of how cultural evaluation can be used to develop an image to uplift the architectural fabric of an area.

by Meghna Mehta May 25, 2019

The Sadra Civic Centre is a proposed conceptual design for a social centre for the new city of Sadra, Iran. One of the challenges faced here was to create an identity without falling back on memorial-like stereotypes. Several questions were posed by Next Office, the architects, when dealing with designing the project - “How can we create a complex that has influential features, and at the same time, takes a critical distance from conventional stereotypes?” “How can open space and public spaces for recreation and social life be linked to the climate and the harsh sunlight of the region?” “How can we achieve an architecture full of imagination and freshness that the people of (the city of) Shiraz desire?” The gradual development of a new city requires a flexible and multiplying spatial structure that gradually evolves and expands over time. The structural question was also raised, “How can one get rid of conventional stereotypes critically, while preserving the iconic nature and effect of public spaces?”

Based on the shared response to these questions, the architects proposed the idea of a ‘city within a city’. The design was envisioned to break the ‘whole’ and build the urban spaces and volumes from the ‘parts’.

The project was defined to raise the quality of life and cultural level of this new town. The design modules act as descendants of traditional mud-straw construction with their central courtyards, while the form and function cater to modern needs. For example, the protruding shapes in the skyline remind one of badgirs or ‘wind-towers’, predominantly used in traditional middle-eastern construction to bring in the cool winds. However, in this case, they seem more like a modern adaptation that blends in with its fabric rather than standing tall and aloof.

  • Proposal for the Sadra Civic Centre by Next Office Image Credit: Courtesy of Next Office
  • Proposal for the Sadra Civic Centre by Next Office Image Credit: Courtesy of Next Office
  • Proposal for the Sadra Civic Centre by Next Office Image Credit: Courtesy of Next Office

The semi-open and flexible spaces, based on different social events, take on a variety of themes such as Ta’zieh (an Iranian ceremonial performative form), storytelling, music, game, etc., while a fluid network has been created for access and inclination, which also work as a good shading device against the harsh sun of the desert and make such activities possible. Different architectural volumes, while they belong to a cumulative connected form, appear as unique images in spite of structural similarities. This not only exposes cultural referencing but also proves that unity and diversity can exist together. They also create a social and civil environment through different layers and social classes. There exists an interesting importance of the social aspect within the project; the numerous public spaces with a different degree of specificity (various scales of spaces between the public plazas and the courtyards of the residential areas), the pavement path of the plazas, multiple event-oriented spaces, and the creation of social interaction, all further emphasise the idea of urban organisation in the Iranian cities.

Alireza Taghaboni, the principal architect mentions, “In this project, we tried to retrieve a new citation of the central courtyard by transforming them into public and interconnected yards.” For the same, the activities required were analysed and the topographic features of the land were evaluated. The grains are shaped around these permeable and pertinent courtyards, and circulation has been designed as a series of open expanding and contracting spaces instead of a linear path.

“The circulation and movement paths within the design have been given much thought. The ceilings are usable for human motion and interaction while the movement paths are practically formed on two levels of the ground floor and roofs such that the layers of the various social classes in these courtyards and paths are formed and remain interconnected,” adds Taghaboni. These multiple layers of spaces designed keeping the site contours in mind, reduce the amount of excavation and embankment and contribute to the project’s economy, making it impossible to lock up residential grains under the shadow of commercial and cultural masses. “It also makes the project, on one hand, establish a connection with the earth and, on the other, has a logical approach to create an identity in the skyline,” mentions Taghaboni.

  • Internal courtyard Image Credit: Courtesy of Next Office

The preferred construction method here was rammed earth so as to use materials belonging to the site itself. Continuous meshing and simultaneous construction of cross walls were designed to create an integrated structural system. The ability to complete the complex over time and its implementation across different phases was anticipated to facilitate the building of the project that fits the city’s development and growth.

In this work, by insisting on the refusal of representativeness and symbolism, a vernacular tone has been achieved for the dynamism that flows through the form into the material, and is familiar to the user while also maintaining a contemporary sense. The architect explains, “In this respect, we have treated the project with an ‘unfamiliar familiarity’; familiarity with the dynamics that stimulate our sensory perceptions and unfamiliarity with being reference-less from our rational perceptions. For example, if we were faced with a set of winders or domes in a project, then the forms would have references that our rational perceptions can perceive. In the Sadra Civic Centre, we are confronted with a modern cubic complex with a regional layer mounted on it, rather than a regional form, which, with the critical reduction of its pluralistic components, has approached itself with a minimalist and modernist statement.” The form was created as an integrated object and has further led to an inseparable dialectic of the ‘new thing’ and the ‘familiar thing.’

  • Conceptual sketch Image Credit: Courtesy of Next Office
  • Exploded axonometric Image Credit: Courtesy of Next Office
  • Layout plan Image Credit: Courtesy of Next Office
  • Site section Image Credit: Courtesy of Next Office
  • Wall section with wind and sun patterns Image Credit: Courtesy of Next Office
  • Physical model Image Credit: Courtesy of Next Office
  • Physical model Image Credit: Courtesy of Next Office

Project Details

Name of the project: Sadra Civic Centre
Location: Sadra, Iran
Architect: Next Office
Principal architect: Alireza Taghaboni
Status of the project: Concept
Design team: Alireza Taghaboni, Maziar Ghaseminia, Fatemeh Tabatabaeian,Homa Asadi, Peyman Nozari, Majid Jahangiri, Sepideh Sarafzadeh, Sajad hosseini, Ebrahim Roostaee, Mohamad Motamedinia, Pouyan Bizeh, Asal Karami, Roza bemani, Mohammad Kahidi, Kaveh Chehri, Navid Ghafouri

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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