- Construction Period: 2017-2019
- Type: Single residential (holiday house)
- Clients: Mehdi Razavian, Afsaneh Rostami
- Location: Igol Village, Tehran, Iran
Igol house is a holiday home which celebrates life. Holiday is a time when work and the tensions of everyday are suspended in favor of joy, sensation, imagination, and play. The house considers its inhabitants not as users but as players. Play’s time and space has certain qualities which are materialized in the design: suspension of other times and spaces, heterogeneity or the coexistence of multiple seemingly contradictory forces, and liminality or operating between seemingly opposite forces such as movement and stillness or inside and outside. Moreover, the house posits its inhabitants in direct relation to the surrounding landscape; to activate the joyful relativity which exists between the human-body, the earth, and the sky. Designed for my parents, it is a love letter to them.
The slope and the oblique habitat
The house is located in Igol, a village in the north-eastern valleys of Tochal mountains in Iran along Fasham river with approximately twenty-five kilometers distance from the city of Tehran. In most constructions which happen in Igol and the surrounding foothill villages, because of the difficulties of building on a slope, the “problem” is removed in the first place. Through the excavation of the mountains or the destruction or the flattening of the sloped gardens, most of these constructions have resulted in the massive destruction of the natural context. The plot used to have the slope of approximately 37 degrees, but one of the old owners, through building multiple stoned terraces has divided the slope into nine levels. During this construction, only one tree was left intact. The next owners have attempted to even remove these terraces during two failed attempts of construction. The first terrace had been removed in one of these attempts which has resulted in the destruction of the adjacent plots
This added matter can now be soil or water. Therefore, although the terraces had a rocky and uncultivable base, through the act of adding matter instead of removing it, it was possible to create terraced gardens.
The design does not consider the slope as a problem to be solved, but as a force which helps with rethinking the conventions of horizontal living. It has become a crucial force behind the design process which affected the formal, organizational, and conceptual decisions. The design introduces a form of a living which is neither horizontal, nor vertical, but both vertical and horizontal or what exists between the two: an oblique living.
Movement and gravity, life and death
The plot is located in front of the village’s cemetery and the house faces this cemetery. As the main building is situated on top of the slope, in order to access it, one has to either climb the stairs or take the oblique outdoor lift. There exists something in the act of climbing a slope which activates the sensation of joy. The attempt to overcome gravity is a joyful resistance towards death. It is the playful celebration of life. Through taking the outdoor lift, which is suspended on a green oblique belt and it is moving on rails attached to the adjacent fences, one experiences a playful experience travelling in between spaces. Moreover, through the change of directionality of the staircases, which are along or perpendicular to the slope, curiosity is activated. The experience of the entrance to the house or the travelling between the spaces is therefore an act of resistance towards death: not ignoring its existence or avoiding it but accepting it and resisting it joyfully, consciously, and constantly.
The volume of the main building lays on two of the upper terraces and it is cantilevered on two pedestals to firstly reduce the footprint of the building and secondly to materialize the state of suspension which was one of the main concepts. Like a tightrope walker, the building itself is a white volume floating in the surrounding landscape of trees and mountains.
In this house the intention was to activate play, curiosity, and imagination of the inhabitants. Play’s time and space brings multiple forces in relation to each other, because play is the sphere of the many. Heterogeneity is celebrated in play. In Igol house, each level operates radically different from the others. It has a different dialogue with the outside and it presumes a different set of activities. The main building has three floors. The ground level is the main entrance zone and it is an art studio for my mother who is a painter. The midlevel consists of a bedroom with a balcony, a toilet and bathroom, and a multifunctional room. Inspired by the fluidity of program in Iranian architecture, this room can be transformed into sleeping, living, eating, or working zone. The living room and the kitchen are on the second floor which has the best view. There is another entrance on this floor as the garden on this level has access to a pedestrian mountain path on the back. Through materiality, the differences between these levels are both accentuated and brought together in peace. The position of the two interior staircases along each other provide an oblique visual and physical connection between these three layers. The small windows along the staircases follow the rhythm of the Sepidar trees in the neighboring plot. Heterogeneity is also extended to the design of the gardens. At one level, the garden is a communal space for socializing or celebrating and in the other it is a private space for meditating or contemplating. At one level it is a fruit or vegetable garden and in the other it is a space of aroma. At one level it is a swimming pool and in the other it is a space for listening to the sound of the flowing water. Finally, the garden is a place where human becomes a creature exposed to the nature and experiences the joy of living. Through maximizing the possibilities of movement between the levels the experience of spaces radically changes and their spatial qualities are (re)discovered.
The design works with binding seemingly contradictory notions and operates on their very limits. For instance, the intention was to blur the boundaries between inside and outside. This is done through multiple operations such as having multiple access point from each level of the house to the outside. As the back terraces are linked through staircases, there is the possibility of the movement from an inside to outside and back to another inside. Moreover, many operations bring the presence of the gardens inside the house. This is done for instance through the framing of specific details of the scenery, or accentuating the presence of the water through the intensification of its sound and providing a view over it.
Movement and stillness are two other binary notions that the design intends to bind. The inhabitants, therefore, experience some aspects of both nomadic and sedentary forms of life. While the possibilities of movement between spaces are maximized, there are many operations which intend to bring the attention to the slowness of life where staying is suggested. For instance, the small windows on the northern side, frame various details of the Sepidar trees and each reveal a different version of the slow movements of their trunks, branches, or leaves.
The rooftop is probably the most important part of the house where slowness is celebrated and staying is suggested. It is a white surface, suspending in its surrounding, providing a panoramic view over the landscape. On this rooftop, the body experiences the joyful sensation of being on the height and floating in the sky. This is an experience my parents,who are mountain climbers, and other mountain lovers are familiar with.
The design of Igol house is not the design of a static object but the design of an organism which is operational and synced with its surrounding landscape.