Public space: the key concept behind the whole project is something which, in the way it is normally understood in Europe, is absent in Tehran. The “agora”, a place where the public can meet and congregate, simply does not exist: no squares, cinemas or theatres. The only space which is recognisably public is the bazaar.
For women, the situation is even more difficult: not being allowed to linger on the street (they have to keep moving at all times), they have no possibility to enter into relationships or to have a social life outside the family. One of the clearest indicators of the need for public spaces are the universities (63% of enrolled students are women who take advantage of the facilities provided not so much for work prospects as for the opportunity to live for a few years in greater freedom), where campuses bustle with young people until 10 pm. To keep their sanity, young Iranians find relief in a “virtual third space” represented by the Internet and satellite TV, the only real way to enter into contact with the outside world.
In the light of these considerations, the project provides for a building able not only to meet the needs for which it has been designed (commercial and office areas), but also to represent a “public service” in its ability to give back to the public, in the form of a space with facilities, a surface area even greater than the one employed for its construction. To do this, the project has been organised on two levels (public and private) able to weave together in their vertical development inside the building while at the same time remaining separate.
Both levels naturally begin on the ground floor, where an urban gallery crosses the entire site from north to south inviting the public to “discover” the building (as well as increasing considerably the exposure of the commercial areas on the ground and first floors), and from where access is gained to the two internal stair blocks (private pathway) and a series of outside stairways (public pathway) which lead to the upper floors. On the second floor, the public pathway leads to the first of the spaces with facilities (approx. 535 m2) and, continuing along the same system of stairways, arrives at two more spaces on the third floor (537 m2) and fourth floor (558 m2).
At this point the public pathway ends, leaving the 5th, 6th and 7th floors with private access only. All the public spaces are provided with seating and tables, as well as Internet coverage; the green areas situated on all the terraces, both public and private, have a total surface area of approx. 760 m2. The image which is aimed for is that of an alternative space, easy to use and capable of providing a sense of modernity directly mediated with tradition (the presence of public pathways in the building recalls the layout of the bazaar; the roof gardens, brise soleil and system of natural ventilation are all elements which refer directly to traditional local building techniques) and for these easily recognisable motifs, a place destined to take root in the habits of the young people of Tehran as a non-conventional space in which to meet: a “discrete” way to transmit a powerful message of democracy, based on the strength of dialogue and cultural exchange, both within society and between society and the outside world, as elements of progress indispensable for the growth, both individually and collectively, of a modern society.
From an environmental design point of view, provision is made for: a mixed system of radiant heating and primary air source for air conditioning and climate control, powered by a geothermal heat pump system; photovoltaic panels (located on the 4th floor and on the roof) capable of producing approx. 100 kw, equivalent to a reduction in the energy requirements of the entire building of around 20/30%; a natural ventilation system (based on the chimney effect) fitted with vents connected to an intelligent self-regulating system; external low-emission curtain walls fitted with self-cleaning glass; distribution of green areas on every floor of the building to facilitate the regulation of the external micro-climate; a system of rainwater harvesting for use in irrigation and flushing toilets; a mixed brise soleil system, created using the external overhangs on the terraces and in the public spaces (and made possible by the substantial inclination of the sun's rays during the summer, approx. 77.59°) and the decoration motifs of the façade made from prefabricated elements in fibre-glass reinforced cement; the use of photocatalytic cement to break down organic and inorganic pollutants present in the air.
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