Escape from Tehran


Jason Rezaian


Maryam Rahmanian


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‘In Diba’s office I learned what good work was and if I wasn’t able to do things well, I quickly learned mistakes that shouldn’t be repeated.’ Nearly half a century later Nourkeyhani is still employing the fundamentals he learned as a young designer. The architect’s long resumé made him the ideal choice for creating a unique property in Lavasan that marries the sophistication of a cosmopolitan artist’s aesthetic with his need to free his mind from the trappings of urban living. The client for the project was Farid Jahangari, a painter who, after deciding that he had enough of city life, was ready for some serenity after a lifetime amidst Tehran’s chaos.

‘We do whatever we can to stay out of Tehran,’ says Jahangari, who can make the easy commute back to the capital whenever necessary but prefers staying put in Lavasan. For Nourkeyhani, the Lavasan project provided the increasingly rare opportunity to put his sensibilities as a modern architect to good use, while including aspects of older Iranian architecture, which dominated his upbringing and inspired him to enter the field in the first place.

‘Most clients want a building that is something between what they’ve seen in buildings they’ve visited in India, Arab countries and Turkey,’ complains Nourkeyhani, ‘When they tell me that’s what they want, I politely tell them I don’t know how to do that.’ Iran, with its many large open expanses of land, is not a country known for taking full advantage of space, but since Jahangari’s lot was of a limited size, Nourkeyhani needed to be inventive to get everything the client wanted into the project’s design. For the Lavasan house, he was able to return to some of the techniques fundamental to Iranian architecture, creating a tiered house that efficiently takes advantage of the available space, producing an effect that makes the home feel much larger than its 500 metres but at the same time retains a sense of cosiness.

Nourkeyhani succeeded in creating what is truly an artists’ refuge. Jahangari, who besides creating his own large canvases also teaches painting, needed a home that could double as a work studio as well. The atelier is located in the back of the house, at the end of a walkway through the garden. To maintain the home’s privacy, which was essential to the Jahangaris, Nourkeyhani built the studio at the lowest point of the property, giving it a separate entrance as well as a secluded terrace. ‘Even in the summertime it stays cool down here,’ noted Jahangari.

When the family began thinking about moving from Tehran, their son was just starting school. Now he is a teenager and the home, with some open fields just beyond the property’s walls and a long lap pool in the garden, has become a favourite for his friends to come over and spend the weekend, Jahangari says. The main sitting room located on the ground floor takes advantage of what used to be a very clear skyline, but is increasingly being blocked by new construction in the area. Surrounded by large windows, offering plenty of light, its an ample sitting area covered in pillows made from nomadic Kilim style flat weave rugs, reminiscent of the hacienda or ranch style homes of California.

In lieu of a western style dining room, Nourkeyhani and Jahangari opted for a traditional Iranian sofreh khaneh. One of the many unique features of the home, the area intended for taking meals on the floor is staggered between the sitting room and the kitchen, providing easy access to both but creating a division of space in the house’s midsection. Although it’s only a few metres from the sitting room, the kitchen still feels removed. Like the atelier, it is built below the rest of the house which helps to keep it cool. As in the rest of the house, the sleeping quarters are interconnected with other parts of the home, but retain a feeling of privacy for their occupants.

A railless staircase that runs through all levels of the house leads up to a second, more casual living room intended for the home’s inhabitants and a bedroom with a small terrace overlooking the garden and swimming pool. One more short staircase leads to the master bedroom. With another small work studio, it is sparely decorated and dominated by windows overlooking fruit orchards. Well-spaced and staying faithful to its Persian surroundings, Nourkeyhani’s Lavasan property is a reminder that peace can still be found, even close to the city.

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