Find Me if You Can

A clear characteristic of any city is having urban spaces. In other words, is it possible to name a place without urban spaces a ‘city’? An urban space is defined as a place that meets the needs of human life as well as the activities necessitated by social living.  Spaces such as streets, city squares, etc. become a means for enhancing social collaboration, one-on-one relations, enclosed spaces; they are well-proportioned spaces with a sense of identity (Habibi 2000). Today if we ask people to define a city square they will surely respond that it is a place at the intersection of two streets, designed for regulating automobile circulation. As simple as that! It is the same for other urban spaces as well, which over time have turned into featureless places taken for granted. The city squares of the past, used by pedestrians, as places of socialization without fear of being run over by automobiles, are unimaginable today. Clearly a requirement of the liveliness of urban spaces is the presence of people, but the way cities are regulated today, and our way of life has led to a disappearance of such spaces. The megacity of Tehran, which used to be a small village of Rey, has gone through significant transformations over the past years. The centralization of educational, health, and leisure functions in this city has led to a cancer-like population growth, and hence an expansion of the city. And in this midst what has been forgotten is any sign of urban spaces; what is any city-dweller’s basic right.

This existing condition has become a dilemma for me: Is it possible to consider this important need (urban spaces) while designing and constructing works of architecture? After much research and analysis, we have reached positive results:

In the Mellat Part Cineplex the building lifts up from the ground in its central section, creating an urban space where people can meet, and various cultural and artistic events can take place. This is the project’s main contribution to the city. Smooth, wave-like ramps along the length of the project and its north side are reminiscent of the pathways inside the park, and create a continuity between the spaces inside and the park outside, while providing unexpected views as one traverses these ramps. Overall the building’s form and elements are in balance with the site. The building functions like a live creature with connected and independent parts.

The design of the Sepehr Tower also took a similar direction. Our intention was to design the tower not merely as an office/commercial space, or an independent architectural feature, but as a public, urban space. The project focused on the concept of the physical and mental health of a city’s residents during the growth and expansion of the city. In a dense urban fabric, open urban spaces act as public meeting spaces, as well as breathing rooms for the city itself. The open spaces in this project highlight necessary spaces for public gatherings. The volumes of this project are located on the north side of the site, and an open space on the tower’s eighth floor provides views to the mountains on the north side of Tehran, and the city center to the south. Diagonal cuts on the volume of the tower lead to the creation of terraces on different floors, providing green spaces along the height of the tower and variety in the shape of the building. Vertical cuts on the tower disperse open green spaces on different floors, and to provide public access to these spaces a skin-like cladding has been wrapped around the tower, defining a path of public access on the surface of the building, as well as connecting the central open terrace to the restaurant on the top floor. Given the height and location of the building, which makes it visible from different parts of the city, and vice versa, its open terraces provide inviting spaces for the residents of the city. Wide stairs on the surface of the building allow for private access to the first floor. Creating passages, circulation pathways, urban corners, green spaces along pathways, plazas, and connections between interior and exterior circulation paths, enhance the quality of space, making it more attractive.

Every work of construction in Tehran has a client and investor, as well as a program and a goal. Anything forming an urban space – including such constructions – will intentionally or not play a role in defining the values of a city’s residents. It is important that the needs and values of these residents, which have been lying ignored for many years, be taken into consideration as an important factor in the design of even the smallest project. Perhaps in this way we can someday return the concept of citizenry to the city of Tehran.