Architect Mohammad Hassan Forouzanfar has put together spectacular photomontages that combine archaeological sites in Iran with contemporary buildings by masters of architecture such as Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind and Norman Foster.
His conceptual project, entitled Expanding Iranian Ancient Architecture, imagines modern buildings that intersect with ancient oriental architecture.
Famous existing buildings, such as the Libeskind Studio at the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada and the Louvre glass pyramid by Ieoh Ming Pei, overlap with pre-Islamic castles and royal palaces at UNESCO World Heritage sites in Iran. Another image, Zaha Hadid Architects’ Port House, is an extension of the cantilevered fire station on Tepe Sialk, an ancient archaeological site in Kashan. In another, the glass superstructure of Foster + Partners at the Apple Store in Hangzhou protects the remains of Takht-e-Jamshid in Fars.
Forouzanfar has combined these images to examine the tension between the visions of the past and the future and initiate a conversation on the conservation of the sites themselves. Linking architecture from the Western canon to pre-Islamic architecture was a deliberately stimulating choice for the viewer and for himself.
There is a precious legacy of the Iranian past that has become a global record. But due to neglect and lack of protection, many of these buildings have been destroyed or are in danger of being destroyed.
By creating photomontages of UNESCO-listed sites superimposed on modern reference buildings, the architect wants to highlight how Iran’s architectural heritage is neglected and wonders how it could be restored.
“The preservation and restoration of monuments are important in a country with a lot of historical heritage, and its strategies need to be constantly reviewed to find the best practices and the most up-to-date principles.
Historical monuments in Iran are eroding and decaying, and are less likely to be restored with modern methods that can derive from contemporary critical thinking.”
The use of contemporary architecture to help preserve UNESCO World Heritage sites is a delicate balance for architects. In Bahrain, Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati has built a large red concrete canopy to protect the ruins of an ancient market and provide a unique visiting experience. Why not take it as an example?
Text by Elisa Scotti