Eilkhaneh Residential Complex

[SHIFT] Process Practice

Location: Tehran, Tehran, Zaferaniyeh, Iran

Design team: Rambod Eilkhani-Nashid Nabian-Dorna Mesrzadeh

Area: 500.0 sqm

Project year: 2014

Design associate: Diba Dayani

Mechanical consultant: Ali Ghanizadeh

Electrical consultant: Ali Piltan

Construction associates: Hesamodin Raoufpanah,Alireza Ansari Amin

Presentation & graphic: Golnaz Jamshidi - Mohsen Khanmohamadi - Milica Milosevic - Mehrasa Chamani Heidari

Photography: Parham Taghiof


This exercise responds to a trifold of front-lines:

The Urban Battle:

The site of the project is located in a neighborhood of city of Tehran that has been densified substantially during recent decades and most of its urban facades consist of four to five-story infill buildings. One of these buildings faces our project on the other side of the alley. To make sure that we are not overinvested in the not-so-interesting view of the other side of the street, many mediatory semi-open spatial pockets are strategically placed on different levels in the southern façade, and, some of the windows look into these semi-open spatial pockets as opposed to directly looking out, reinforcing the building’s sense of introvertedness.

Moreover, construction by-laws allow for the erection of infill apartments in the 60 percent of the northern part of the lot. This has given rise to a very obvious urban phenomena, visible throughout the city, which is that of the third façade: the lateral surfaces of the newly erected infill apartments which in a fully built-up neighborhood will be covered by the volume of the adjacent infill apartments. Yet, in situations where the neighboring lots are not yet developed to four to five-story buildings, these surfaces are left untreated, resulting in an ugly cacophony of urban views. This is also true for the back façade, as long as the built mass is situated in the utmost northern part of the lot, which means that the building is not allowed to have openings in its northern façade and basically, this surface is considered the back of the building. In these situations, in the market-driven paradigms of residential development, the back façade and the third façade surfaces are left untreated, leaving the neighbors of the project with an out-of-scale, untreated slab as their immediate vistas. For inner lots, for whom the only access to the outer world is actually this back façade, this creates a situation that can only be characterized as “spatially unjust.”

As an intellectual and somewhat idealistic goal, in the project’s conceptualization it was decided that all neighbors should have the right to a humanistic view, a view that does not invade their private realm with the ugliness of an untreated side or back façade. This meant that the project took the shape of an infill apartment with four facades. This was a moral move and a gesture of urban intellect, not supported by the market-driven logic of residential development.

The Socio-Cultural Yawning:

During the twentieth century, Iranians were rapidly modernized without actually understanding or going through the essential steps of modernity. Certain paradigms of domestic life were lost in this transition: material culture and craftsmanship; the sense of community between members of an extended family who inhabit the same premises; the role of shared spaces and yards, the affinity with nature and greenery; the spatial complexity of domestic interior; and the integration of furniture as structural part of the domestic space instead of a series of stand-alone objects. Eilkhaneh is our attempt to re-evaluate the lost values of Iranian domestic space. Eilkhaneh examines the possibility of designing for real homes within the framework of erecting an infill apartment.

One vision of the project, very much informed by certain nostalgia about sociocultural norms of pre-modern familial life, was to ensure that the shared spaces of the project, that of the staircase, would offer enough transparency and access to the private realms of the units occupied by members of an extended family. It would not be a recourse to hyperbole to claim that the youngsters of this extended family are being raised in an apartment building that offers them the potential of a tribal house, with lots of familial interaction in shared social spaces.

Aside from the yawning for communal, shared domestic spaces, the craving for an unmediated connection to nature still exists in the hearts of Tehran’s residents. This connection was formerly mediated through the yards and gardens of residential units. But with the densification of the urban fabric, once the maximum buildable envelope is fully built, there is no surface area left for a private garden. One of the visions of the project was to reconcile this conflictual spatial setting. This has informed the inclusion of a rooftop garden and a set of green spatial pockets along the façade of the project.

Among the many aspects of traditional interior space that disappeared with the modernization of domestic architectural paradigms is the embeddedness of certain furnishings within architectural surfaces. In designing Eilkhaneh, we tried to bring back the idea of embeddedness to the spatial logic of the interiors. Vertical architectural surfaces are systematically turned into habitable and usable spaces by inclusion of intrusions and extrusions. The western wall of the building is designed as a domestic dashboard, a composition of shelves, each exactly designed according to the dimensions of different domestic activities and objects.

As the design of the interior distances itself from the conventional practice of stacking similar floor plans, new sectional relations emerge in the interior spaces.The vertical relationship between the special pockets, and how this is experienced by the younger inhabitants, plays a substantial role in how their image of being in a world as a vertical being is informed. Living in a unit of an apartment building, this conceptual relationship with verticality is lost. The sectional complexity offered within the interior spaces of this particular building attempts to redefine the idea of a vertical being.

The Political Necessity:

The project tries to reconcile the absurd incongruences of formal and informal domesticity in IRAN. It is not unknown that many Iranians lead parallel lives: the formal, public life is very much informed by the institution of theocracy, which forbids certain practices. Hence, he domestic space has become a major player in providing a platform for exercising many forbidden public rituals that normally would and should happen in the space of the city. These rituals demand a maximization of privacy for the domestic space, and the familial community of this particular project is no exception to this rule. Hence, although the project offers maximum transparency within and between the units themselves, a certain level of guardedness against the outside world is also a part of the project vision.