Baft-e-Shahr Consulting Architects and Urban Planners
Completed in 1997
Since the 1950s, rapid population growth in Tehran has created huge pressure for land on which to build, resulting in the destruction of many of the public and private gardens that once graced the city. As part of a wider range of measures to limit urban sprawl, Tehran Municipality has supported efforts to protect the natural environment of the Alborz Mountains that form the city's northern perimeter. During the late 1970s, a 12-hectare park - Jamshidieh Stone Garden - was created at the foot of the mountains. It proved to be highly popular, and in 1992 the municipality commissioned the park's architects - Baft-e-Shahr Consulting Architects and Urban Planners - to prepare a wider study for the outlying areas north of Tehran. The first part of the study to be implemented was a 30-hectare park, Bagh-e-Ferdowsi, set in a series of steep, south-facing gullies scattered with loose rocks and boulders. To assess the site's potential, the design team camped there for a month, and their design emerged, to a large extent, from the natural topography.
The primary intervention is a series of stone-paved paths and steps that rise up the hill, providing views over the city. Along these paths, areas for sitting, refreshment and entertainment have been created within the natural topography, including four cultural houses built to represent the distinctive styles of Iran's Azeri, Kurdish, Turkmen and Zagros ethnic groups. The paths ultimately lead to a sculpture garden being developed to the east and to hiking trails into the upper valleys.
The routes explore a number of themes, both cultural and natural. The entry point is a paved open space dominated by a statue of Ferdowsi (940-c 1020), the Iranian epic poet after whom the park is named. From this space, a wide stepped pathway forms a "cascade passage", which branches into a network of routes across the site, bordered by a variety of indigenous plants chosen for their form, colour and suitability to the environment. Between the paved paths, copses of trees have been planted to provide shade and colour during the changing seasons.
The primary material is rough-hewn stone, collected from the site or quarried from higher up the mountain ridge. Retaining walls and terraces have been constructed in undulating patterns according to the size and shape of the stones, minimizing cutting, and many large boulders have been made into focal points for spaces along the routes. In a number of places, outcroppings of rock have been imaginatively sculpted into forms such as fish, lizards and bears, creating an environment where respect for nature can be playfully developed among the young.
In the design of the four cultural houses, traditional materials and forms reflect the way of life of the groups represented. Red stone was brought in from Azerbaijan for the Azeri house; the Zagros house takes the form of an open-sided nomadic tent; while the Turkmen cultural house comprises a series of circular spaces with distinctive domed roofs, derived from traditional yurts.
Water is one of the main organizing elements in traditional gardens. With no natural source of water available on the site, the designers ingeniously created water channels that lead from drinking fountains in the public spaces. Lighting is another important aspect of the design, with all of the principal paths to the summit illuminated by pole-mounted lights. The distinctive patterns made by the lights against the slopes of the Alborz Mountains are now a landmark for the city below.
The project, which was completed in 1997, enjoys great popularity and has had a direct and positive impact on the city, alleviating pressure for development on the slopes of the Alborz Mountains and creating an environment where people, nature and culture thrive. An imaginative reinterpretation of the traditional Persian "paradise" garden adapted to modern needs, Bagh-e-Ferdowsi pays testimony to the importance of environmental design within the overall process of urban development.
This project has been chosen for its innovative approach to environmental design, which limits urban development and promotes an awareness of conservation and nature amongst the urban population of Tehran. As a setting for outdoor recreational and cultural pursuits, the park provides spaces for contemplation, family recreation and social interaction, and for the appreciation of local culture and entertainment. Imaginative use of materials, playful sculptures and indigenous landscaping draw on the best traditions of garden design in the region. In an age of global consumer culture, with the spread of stifling and homogeneous urban forms, this "nature-urban" public park constitutes a refreshing and welcome change.
Tehran Municipality - Gholamhossein Karbaschi, former Mayor; Abolghassem Ashouri, former Deputy Mayor for Technical Affairs and Development.
Baft-e-Shahr Consulting Architects and Urban Planners - Gholamreza Pasban Hazrat, Principal; Fathali Farhad Abozzia, Landscape Architect; Ahmad Ghahraman, Botanist; Fariba Gharaï, Mojgan Bahmanyar, and Mohammad Naseripour, Design of Cultural Houses; Ahmad Hadad Kaveh, Mechanical Engineer; Aliasghar Ghahramani, Electrical Engineer; Hossein Hamed Azimi, Quantity Surveyor; Hamid Ghaffari, Site Survey; Harmik Khodagholi Araghi and Farhad Mohammed Sohi, Site Supervisors.
Nasser Houshmand-Vaziri (thirty sculptures) and Simin Ekrami (two sculptures).
Organization for Technical and Engineering Consultancy of the City of Tehran.
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