by Anmol AhujaNov 26, 2020
Carried out in two phases, Presence in Hormuz seeks to empower the local communities of the historically significant port city of Hormuz in southern Iran. It aims at community empowerment and local employment via urban development, and a segment of that inspiration stems from the island’s own past. Hormuz’s strategic location lent itself to it being a historic port in the strait of the Persian Gulf, handling a significant part of the Middle Eastern petroleum trade. The location also fared well with the tourists owing to its colourful, surreal landscapes, but lately, the local inhabitants at Hormuz have been found to be struggling economically, getting involved in illegal trafficking activities using their boats. The intervention at Hormuz by ZAV Architects then not only looks at inclusion and empowerment, but almost an upgraded resettlement of a village sized community.
There have been several thriving community models, wherein their very success is a direct factor of the involvement of the local communities in every step of the decision making process. Presence in Hormuz takes it a step further by involving the locals and the reformed community that they would form in the construction as well as logistical processes. Appointed by a semi-public institution, ZAV Architects overlooks the project into its second phase, wherein it looks at a multipurpose cultural residence called Majara, literally translating to adventure. The residence will serve as a bridge between and tie together the lives of local people and visitors, both culturally and economically.
Iran’s history has been rife with state struggles and political disputes, both internal and external. In that, the designers at ZAV Architects and the stakeholders at Hormuz understand the importance and significance of each architectural intervention serving a bigger purpose, becoming a proposal for internal governing alternatives. Two pertinent questions arise: “What are the limits of architecture and how can it suggest a political alternative for communal life? How can it attain social agency?” Both find their answers in the sustainably and sociably built community housing at Hormuz. Its most striking feature may be the red, blue and yellow earth domes visible from nearly a mile, dotting the banks of its relatively sandy terrain, but the story behind is equally interesting, if not more. This social enterprise brings together land owners from the neighbouring port of Bandar Abbas, who also organise an annual land-art event in Hormuz, investors from Tehran, and the locals of Hormuz as partners and stakeholders in this project.
Given the organic build and form of Presence in Hormuz, its conceptual programme too gives the intervention to the soil. Individual domes are visualised as undulations in the dredging sand of the dock, like the earth swelling up akin to sandbags, producing habitable spaces. The intervention is seen as a congregation of soil, sand, gravel and stone coming together to form a rainbow coloured topography of its own, like a carpet woven with granular knots. The multitude of small scale domes are built with the superadobe technique of Nader Khalili, utilising the innovative and simple methods for construction with rammed earth and sand. Unskilled workers from the community were trained and prepared for this project by work offered on other smaller projects, training them as master superadobe masons, as if “Nader Khalili multiplied exponentially”.
While the project’s social goals are its highlighters, its commercial endgame is upping the value derived out of all aspects of the realisation of this project through minimal investment, along with an attempt to offset sanction costs. This is achieved by extremely efficient and economic planning and building, offsetting traditional construction costs. Within the reduced budget, the project inventively and decidedly shifts its impetus from material costs that often bear an excessive transportation/import component, to labour costs that directly benefit the community. Studies conducted by ZAV Architects reveal that while traditional construction in Iran settles at an 80-20 ratio for material vis-à-vis labour costs, also highlighting the problem of cheap labour in developing countries, the Majara project turns the wheels by bringing it down to a 35-65 by locally sourcing materials, and empowering and skill training local people in participatory construction. The earthen domes are relatively spacious and owing to their responsive, contextual design, provide a residence of dignity that fosters communal habits, a shot at elevated living.
All of these become huge benefactors to driving social change, encapsulated within a scheme that seems truly of, for and by the people. To add to it, the venture’s physical manifestation is an organic cluster of interconnected candy coloured dome houses breathing new life in a scorched landscape. One simply cannot deny the rare visual appeal of this social housing enterprise, punctuated with the occasional shared green patch, a rarity again for an undertaking of this nature that often operates within strict volumes and bureaucratic guidelines. The very ‘textbook-ised’, transformative notion of architecture as a social tool comes true here: win, win.
Name: Presence in Hormuz 2
Architects: ZAV Architects
Completion Year: 2020
Gross Built Area: 10300 m2
Area: 4000 m2
Landscape Area: 6300 m2
Location: Iran, Hormuz Island
Owner: Ali Rezvani
Client: Ehsan Rasoulof
Lead Architects: Mohamadreza Ghodousi, Fatemeh Rezaei, Golnaz Bahrami, Soroush Majidi
Design Assistants: Sheila Ehsaei,Sara Jafari, Payman Barkhordari, Mohsen Safshekan, Kaveh Rashidzadeh, Hossein Panjehpour
Landscape: Maryam Yousefi, Morteza Adib
Interior Design: Sara Jafari, Taraneh Behboud, Sara Nikkar, Mohsen Dehghan