By Sarah Bryn Witmer, Research Associate
Claiming 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Iran’s courtyards and gardens, patterns, textures, and shapes are celebrated and emulated worldwide. In addition to its impressive and historic architecture, however, Iran is also home to a vibrant construction industry with a trend towards modernization. One prime example of a modern gem and model of technological achievement is the Sharifi-ha House in Tehran, designed by Tehran-based firm Nextoffice in 2013: a seven-story home with rooms that rotate and shift at the push of a button. While some Iranians bemoan this kind of change in the architectural landscape, others suggest that modern buildings are more suitable for everyday life and attracting tourists. Even the modern Sharifi-ha House, however, reflects the staying power of traditional Persian architecture since the concept of rotating rooms was inspired by old Iranian mansions, which had both summer and winter living rooms.
As Sharifi-ha House demonstrates, Iran’s building and renovation industry in many ways offers a compromise between preservation and modernization. A renovation movement of older private homes in the city of Kashan, just north of Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz, has sustained a healthy economy through the years of economic downturn and unemployment that have plagued many Iranian cities. Ameri House, for example, a sprawling 18th-century home known for its traditional Persian courtyards and fountains, has been renovated into a hotel. Another 200 year-old home-turned-hotel in Kashan, Manouchehri House, boasts “the highest standards of historic preservation and the latest in modern amenities.”
What constitute “modern amenities” in Iran? As advertised on the website for the upcoming 15th annual Kitchen, Bath, Sauna, and Pool Industries and Equipment International Exhibition (K&B—S&P) in Tehran, they include the same kind of services and appliances enjoyed in the West. The exhibition will feature everything from the mundane—insulation, air conditioning, and food processing equipment for industrial kitchens—to the extravagant—prefabricated pools, barbecues, and hydrotherapy bathtubs.
Many of these top-of-the-line amenities make their way not just into commercial spaces, but also into the private homes of wealthy Iranians. In Iran, private spaces are much more than just a place to live; home design in Iran also provides opportunities for individual expression and freedom from the moral codes that dictate public life. “The living room is a place where you can feel free,” describes the photography book Iranian Living Room, which offers readers a glimpse into contemporary Iranian homes. As a result, Iranians who have the means to do so, put special care, effort and money into their living spaces. In June 2016, Italian luxury brand Molteni partnered with Iranian company Ravagh Home to open Molteni Persia: a 1,000-square meter showroom in Tehran. With a high demand for Armani-designed kitchens, Molteni Persia notes that Iranian customers are more likely to renovate their entire home to fit one brand than they are to buy a single couch or table as they might in Europe. “I assume that in the next ten years we will hear a lot about this country from Italian brands,” remarked Molteni’s general manager Marco Piscitelli.
Iran is gradually opening up to and inviting foreign investment to match its domestic innovation. While the approximately 225 companies attending the upcoming K&B—S&P exhibition in Tehran are primarily Iranian home goods, renovation, and marketing companies, there is a growing international contingent. To organize and facilitate the inclusion of more foreign companies, K&B—S&P has representatives in China, Turkey, Germany, and South Korea. More information about the exhibition is below.
Kitchen, Bath, Sauna, and Pool Industries and Equipment International Exhibition
Tehran Permanent Fairground
June 30-July 3, 2017