For a recent architecture project in Mosha, a village in the Alborz mountain range in northern Iran, Tehran-based firm New Wave Architecture created an innovative home out of three stacked and cantilevered rectangular prisms. Each prism, angled to face a different direction, offers a panoramic view of the snow-capped mountains from its front-facing floor-to-ceiling window. “The result was something more than a mere window,” explains Shahin Heidari, who co-founded New Wave Architecture with Lida Almassian.. “It was more like a dynamic plane, beside which activities of life would take shape. It was a combination of the inside and outside of the building.” On the first floor, for example, residents can marvel at the mountains while floating in the indoor swimming pool, while on the third floor, occupants can fall asleep while gazing at the stars. “We sought to remove the boundaries between mankind and nature, something like outer and inner integration, and motivate emotions such as joy and freedom,” Almassian says.
Bringing the outside in is important to New Wave Architecture, which was founded in 2006 and has more than 200 projects in its architecture portfolio. “Nature itself leads us to the approach,” Heidari says. For a rock-climbing complex near Mount Damavand, a volcano with the highest peak in the Middle East, the firm took inspiration from plate tectonics and geological processes. The boulder-like white structure resembles a snow-covered mountain, and the jagged stretch of windows, which looks in on an illuminated atrium, appears like a smoldering crack in the earth’s surface. “Combining nature and architecture gives value to our work,” Heidari says.
Blending nature and architecture can also be valuable in your own home—Heidari and Almassian believe merging the two encourages happiness and harmony. Some techniques include the use of large windows and light, natural ventilation and organic elements like wood (in the Mosha house, for example, a wooden spiral staircase connects the three floors). But what is right for your home depends on its distinct surroundings and the context. “Each building has its own specific language,” Heidari and Almassian explain in the following interview, “each one has its own answers to demands.”
How would you describe New Wave Architecture’s aesthetic?
We believe that an architect should think freely and create novel ideas regardless of any limitation or architectural style. For guiding our jobs, we have some principals, but we also believe in not restricting ourselves from special designs and styles. We conduct each project on the basis of some parameters, like climate, context, creativity and function. We believe that each building should be both demanding and rewarding.
Do you look at other specific buildings when you begin brainstorming concepts? Or, in modern Iran, what specific architects or buildings are inspirations to you?
Human needs, project-related activities, climate, context, culture and relationships are among the major parameters that inspire us in the course of making new ideas. But studying the history of civilization improves our existing viewpoints. Iran is a country with thousands of years of civilization, and different geographical contexts and climates, which as a result, provides a variety of cultural backgrounds. Various geographical contexts include extroverted architecture of northern areas, introverted architecture of central regions, arid areas, mountains, beaches and forests. Such variety has led to different strategies in architecture that is in harmony with nature, which is one of the most evident aspects of Iranian architecture. Therefore, neither existing architecture nor architects, on their own, inspire our designing, but an investigation of architecture from the past adds to our knowledge.
Your designs often incorporate the landscape, and explore the relationship between people and nature. Why is this important to you?
This is a great question—it is not possible to give a definite answer since the creation of ideas depends on the context and the type of project. But with respect to the Polur mountain-climbing hall and Mosha House, nature and people, and the relationship between them, play a major role. In other words, nature and natural activities by people propelled our designs. Combining nature and architecture gives value to our work.
How did you incorporate the landscape into the design of Mosha House? How did the view influence the design?
In the first step, we analyzed the typology of houses and villas in similar contexts. In these structures, the remaining land was used to build stairs that connected different floors. This typology ignored the potential opportunities of the sites, and therefore, the experience of living in them was not much different than the lifestyle of urban apartments. We sought to remove the boundaries between mankind and nature, something like outer and inner integration, and motivate emotions such as joy and freedom. Creating three cubic masses along the length of the project site, with spontaneous twists and turns around the central stairs, suddenly fulfilled all the requirements of the project. It was also a key for making a new structure.
In respect to the mountain landscape, we filled the front of each cube with floor-to-ceiling windows that offered three different panoramic views. The result was something more than a mere window. It was more like a dynamic plane, beside which activities of life would take shape; it was a combination of the inside and outside of the building. Beside the first plane, residents look at the sunrise behind the mountains, and there is a place for swimming, sports and fun. Beside the second plane, from sunrise to sunset, light and shadows show the movement of life and the mountains, and there is a spot for conversation and communication. Finally, in the highest and most comfortable place in the building, beside the final plane, people go to sleep as they count the stars.
For people who live in homes that weren’t built with the landscape in mind, what is the best thing they can do to experience nature inside their homes? For example, add more windows and increase their size, or bring plants inside?
These ways you have pointed out could be a part of the idea for a project. However, your idea has to be shaped according to the project, its place, and its setting, in order to have efficient applicability. But nature is the music to humans’ souls, and designing buildings that are in harmony with nature could greatly assist our environment. In addition, it would help us to experience a joyful life, and this is what we have experienced in our previous projects.