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Awards 1999-2001

New Life for Old Structures, Various Locations, IranNew Life for Old Structures, Various Locations, Iran

Urban Development and Revitalization Corporation; Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization

Completed in 1992 and ongoing


The historical centres of Isfahan, Yazd, Zanjan, Tabriz and Boushehr comprise dense fabrics of one- and two-storey structures, primarily of mud or fired brick, which are arranged around internal courtyards. The centres of these cities have suffered from general neglect, since traditional homes are often perceived as inappropriate for contemporary needs, and unregulated development poses a very real danger to the historical fabric.

To address this threat, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development established a programme in 1988 to arrest the physical and social decline of Iran's city centres. Historical buildings are acquired, restored and sold or rented to new owners or tenants. An important part of this process has been to identify practical new uses for the buildings to benefit the community.

This work is undertaken by the Ministry's Urban Development and Revitalization Corporation (udrc), which since 1997 has operated as a corporation, with 51 per cent private investment. In addition to the projects in Isfahan, Yazd, Zanjan, Tabriz and Boushehr, the udrc has more than thirty urban revitalization and development projects now ongoing in twenty-one cities. All work related to historical buildings is carried out in close collaboration with the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization (icho) of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

Buildings have been converted, some with great imagination, to accommodate a wide variety of public facilities. Among the most creative examples has been the transformationin Isfahan of the Vazir Bathhouse, dating from the Safavid period, into the Centre for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults. The high vault of the original dressing room, or bineh, is used as a library, while the adjacent steam room, or garmkhaneh, serves as a play and reading area. The more intimate spaces that originally housed pools, or khazineh, provide the backdrop for art lessons. Quarry tiles have been laid with glazed tile inserts in patterns that enable the children to play games, and traditional small glass skylights in the domes provide natural lighting. A ramp, traditionally used to lead animals to draw water from the well, has been ingeniously transformed into a small auditorium.

Modern services, including electrical and heating systems and piped water, have been discreetly introduced to all the restored buildings. Structural changes have been kept to a minimum and traditional materials and skills have been used as far as possible, combined, where appropriate, with modern materials or methods.

A market-driven approach has been crucial to ensure long-term sustainability, and the programme has exploited the low cost of centrally located property in comparison to that of outlying areas, illustrating the potential of restored buildings to meet current needs in a commercially viable way. Private investors have been inspired to undertake parallel projects, including a number of guest-house developments.

The programme has brought new life to the urban centres of Iranian cities, improving living conditions, revitalizing the architectural character, renewing appreciation of the rich cultural heritage, and stimulating awareness in the private sector of how investment in a country's delicate historical fabric can benefit everyone.

Jury Citation
This project has received an Award for helping to promote sustainable urban regeneration within the wider scope of national urban development, rescuing structures and important traditional typologies from demolition and deterioration. In a number of successful interventions in several historical Iranian cities, the programme has attempted to preserve the country's unique built heritage through the adaptive reuse of private and public spaces. This has acted as a catalyst for the introduction of new alternatives that respond to the social needs of contemporary life in historical urban areas. The programme also aims to create economically viable solutions and to meet the needs of younger generations.

Project Data
Urban Development and Revitalization Corporation: Hamidreza Sepehri, Director; Ministry of Housing and Urban Development: Serajeldin Kazerouni, former Minister; Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization.

Restoration Architects
S Benesslo, Fariborz Djabarnia, Ghadiri, Nassim Jaafari, Asghar Jeddi, Mohammadreza Khoshfakari, Nikbakht, Mohammadreza Olia', Mohsen Olia', Hassan Ravanfar, F Tehrani, and M H Vaafi.

Project Managers
S Behzadian, P Jamhiri, Hooshang Kianpour, A Moineddini, and Akbar Taghizadeh.

Master Craftsmen
A Ghaffari, H Kamali, Ebrahim Massoudi, A R Ra'iyati, Hooshang Rassam, Hassan Riahi, H Razavi, M Karami and Abbas Zare' Sharif.

Project History
Design: 1990 and ongoing
Construction: 1990 and ongoing
Occupancy: 1992 and ongoing

Tabib House, Boushehr (completed 1993)
Reuse programme Research Centre for Boushehr Studies

Vazir Bathhouse, Isfahan (completed 1993)
Reuse programme Centre for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults

Qodsieh House, Isfahan (completed 1993)
Reuse programme Religious Seminary

Mojtahedzadeh House, Isfahan (completed 1992)
Reuse programme Middle School

Nilforoushan House, Isfahan (completed 1998)
Reuse programme Guest house

A'alam Va'ez House, Isfahan (completed 2001)
Reuse programme Guest house

Four Qajar residences
, Tabriz (completed 1995)
Reuse programme Sahand University School of Art and Architecture

Khan Bathhouse, Yazd (completed 1997)
Reuse programme Restaurant

Moayed A'layi House, Yazd (completed 1997)
Reuse programme UDRC Offices

Hosayniyeh Nazem ot-Tojar, Yazd (completed 2000)
Reuse programme Art Centre

Tofighi House, Zanjan (completed 1994)
Reuse programme Martyrs' Museum and Memorial

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