Reflecting and Developing upon Iranian Cultural Heritage

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Reflecting and Developing upon Iranian Cultural Heritage

Sina Momtaz

From the Earth to the Sky

“The Real tradition is not to repeat what others have done but to find the spirit which made these great things and that would make any others at other times.”                                                     

                                                                                             Paul Valéry 1940

Today, the development of many cities needs to be vertical because it is one of the only ways to answer their population’s demands. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean we have to forget our previous architecture values. This project tries to show that it is possible to create a new architecture by understanding the real spirit of the ancient knowledge and the patterns of the historical cities in the Iranian central plateau*. One of these patterns is the way to use the 3 elements: water, wind and garden. The intelligence of this knowledge is the use of these elements for making a cooler space in a really hot atmosphere.

The first and the most important element is water which is the main idea of this project. The existing of water has also a symbolic role like the presence of the basin (Hoz) in the Persian houses and gardens. The basin emphasizes on the 4 main directions and then the house created around of that (central structure). But there is a fifth direction which is the top, meaning the way how the sky, by its reflection on the water, is connected to the architecture and its space.

from the earth to the sky, Sina Momtaz, Competion (Dia1), 2016

The idea of the tower is created around the water axis just like the Iranian house. We can say the project is growing from the water and is ending by it, so it seems it will continue on the reflection of the sky (endlessness connection).

from the earth to the sky, Sina Momtaz, Competion (Dia2), 2016

from the earth to the sky, Sina Momtaz, Competion (Zoom-Axo2), 2016

The mass and spaces around the axis (central structure) are created to answer people’s needs and like a neighborhood, have a center, sharing courtyards and, at the end, verandas (Eyvan) facing to the Horizon. The mass is created from a horizontal Iranian city but adapted to the function of today and life style.

The whole building is like a huge Wind-tower (Baadgir). The wind is coming from the central structure and by gliding from the water becomes cooler. Then it comes inside the porous mass and by passing from the central gardens becomes fresher and making the interior spaces cooler and finally goes out from the outside opening of the facade. (Eyvan)

from the earth to the sky, Sina Momtaz, Competion (Axo2), 2016

The public space in this vertical city is inspired by the Persian garden, suspended between the masse. It is the first element that the wind passes to reach the central structure.

The tower creates a system where in, the 3 elements (water+wind+garden) work together to make a sustainable and more comfortable environment. This tower is a translation of an old forgotten value of the Iranian architecture which was modest, simple and respectful to the nature but at the same time intelligent.

from the earth to the sky, Sina Momtaz, Competion (Axo), 2016

*Especially Yazd and its neighborhood, Fahadan

A cultural centre for Bam (Iran)

This project will respect the four core values (water – wind – shadow and gardens), this in a contemporary way and perfectly suited to the environment. The objective is to demonstrate that it is possible to design a building in strict compliance with these values as a means to create space more clement. The advantage of this is to emphasise the cultural impact that such a project may have on the residents reminding them of their vernacular values and instilling in them a desire for respectful architecture of these forgotten values.

cultural center for Bam(Iran), Sina Momtaz, master project (construction), EPFL, 2012Bam (a city in south of Iran) is a place with a rich historical, cultural and conceptual heritage. Its ancient citadel offers living proof that human beings have succeeded in living in the region’s desert conditions by utilising and organising the four main elements at their disposal: water, garden, wind and shade. Unfortunately, the earthquake that struck Bam in 2003 not only had substantial material consequences (it destroyed more than 70 percent of the town) but also left severe psychological scars on its inhabitants who no longer trust their own traditional construction methods.

The aim of the project is to alter this perception, by proving that it is altogether possible to reintroduce traditional architectural values in a contemporary way. The creation of a link between this idea and a historic building in the town would be an act of powerful cultural significance. If an important building in Bam could be restored and rehabilitated along these lines, its symbolic value would be increased beyond measure; at the same time, a decisive demonstration would be made that a link between the new and the old can be both feasible and desirable. The project would be bound to respect the four elements mentioned above, in a manner entirely adapted to the environment. Finally, its principal interest would be to show the cultural impact that an initiative of this kind could have on people, by forcefully reminding them of the innate value of their vernacular architecture.

cultural center for Bam(Iran), Sina Momtaz, master project (Axo-air), EPFL, 2012cultural center for Bam(Iran), Sina Momtaz, master project (Axo-Zoom1), EPFL, 2012


Who influences you graphically?

I was more inspired by artists and illustrators like Diane Berge, Adam Simpson, Paul Noble, Chris Ware, Brodsky & Utkin, Maurits Cornelis Escher and Marjane Satrapi, than drawings and presentations made by architects. I think architects rely too much on technical drawings and established tools to producing a graphical document and less detached to the reality.

What is the effect and purpose of a monochromatic palette? 

The Idea of using a monochromatic palette comes from my trips in Iran when I was doing a study on Persian architecture as a student. The most beautiful architecture which I found were the buildings were made only by brick. You could observe the brick work and understanding the volume, structure and ornaments at the same time. The contrast between the sun and shadow on the buildings inspired me a lot and understanding at the end I won’t need colors or degradation of greys to show volumes and the shape of my projects. I love as well the challenge to decrease the materials and tools as much as possible, same way in Persian architecture, using only brick to create all kinds of spaces and domes.

from the earth to the sky, Sina Momtaz, Competion (Zoom-Axo1), 2016

How important is the diagram as a tool for communication?

A good architecture has always a simple and clear diagram which the main idea of the project is visible in it.

I think diagram is the simplest way to communicate the idea of a project. Everybody has not the eye to understand architecture by looking at a plan, section and even an axonometric drawing to understand the idea. I would say diagram is the base to developing an architectural idea.

from the earth to the sky, Sina Momtaz, Competion (Dia3), 2016

From the earth to the sky

To what extent do you agree with the axonometric as the most complete form of drawing?

I am agreeing that, maybe axonometric drawing for architects is the most complete form of drawing means you can show as much possible information in one document but I am not sure which is the clearest and the best way to read an architecture project. By my experience is that many clients and normal people don’t understand an axonometric drawing, it all depends on the idea which exist in a project but at least I can say axonometric drawing is the most beautiful form of drawing!

cultural center for Bam(Iran), Sina Momtaz, master project (Axo2), EPFL, 2012

Cultural center for Bam(Iran)

What defined the choice of Iran as a source of inspiration? To what extent is everything part of one big continuum? 

Choosing Iran as a source of inspiration was more an excuse to rethinking on an aspect which more and less became a question for many architects: what is the role of an old patrimony and expertise in the contemporary architecture?

Iran has a rich culture of architecture; during centuries architects tries with minimum sources to create most comfortable and beautiful buildings (for example the lack of water, wood and stones in the central Iranian desert. Iranian architecture has had an incredible efficiency and an amazing geometry by using brick as the basic material. I was always interested to investigate how Iranian architecture organically cooled spaces by blowing a fresh air which was made by the garden and basin though the inside. This fact was at the same time simple but difficult to achieve. I loved this two sides in one package, simplicity and complexity. I think we have to learn how to do a sophisticated architecture not only by using technology but also by using some natural effects.

That’s why the graphic which I choose is monochromic and hand drawing by pen. Obviously I used some architectural tools as Rhino and AutoCAD for making the base of my drawing. Which, maybe my dream is to do the same thing in a real construction…

cultural center for Bam(Iran), Sina Momtaz, master project (Section), EPFL, 2012

Cultural center for Bam(Iran)


Sina Momtaz, Iranian born in 1983, graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Tehran and obtained a master degree from EPFL | École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. He worked with Studio Mumbai Architects in 2012 and Herzog & Demeuron until 2015. Now he based in Tehran by making his own studio. Also he is collaborating with Studio India Mahdavi in Paris and working on his personal projects.


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