Lost and Found

Social and Cultural Reconstruction at the Tepe Sialk in Kashan, Iran.
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Designer(s) : Nushin

University : University of Manitoba

Tutor(s) : Herbert Enns

For 3000 years, the Sialk hills of Kashan city, in the central desert of Iran, has been synonymous with carpet weaving. What if brick, the most commonly used building material in Iran, were the construction fibers of a new carpet blanketing this historical area? ­

Persian carpets are inspired by the geometric designs and layouts of the magnificent gardens of ancient Persia. These gardens originated in a four-fold pattern which remains, to this day, the most sought-after Persian carpet design. The city of Kashan, with its 3000-year carpet-weaving history, is home to the earliest known evidence of the craft, discovered 80 years ago in the archaeological Sialk Hills. Therefore, this project proposes a cultural-archaeological centre in the Sialk historical site that serves a two-fold purpose: 1) a carpet weaving centre providing women weavers with a platform to build up one another, expand skills, and increase their profile within the community 2) archaeological research and resource station that revitalizes early Persian design and landscape through further exploration and preservation of artifacts.

Traditional Kashan architecture was designed in an introverted form to respond to the harsh environment while meeting religious privacy needs. Brick has an enduring relationship with Iranian architecture due, in part, to its high-heat capacity, a trait particularly beneficial for the extreme day/night temperature fluctuations of desert cities.  Archaeological discoveries in the Sialk region show that its inhabitants, from 4500 to 900 BCE, used bricks for house construction.

Taking a sustainable approach, this project fuses architecture with structure through reinforced brick walls and wave-like roof surfaces. Parametric brick design blurs the boundaries between outside and inside by integrating qualities such as introversion and extroversion, façade and space, transparency and solidity, and natural and artificial lighting, thereby offering a new definition of transparency without sacrificing privacy, while also softening natural-light intensity.

Design Process

Repetition, Symmetry, Rectangular form, and Modularity are the main principles that are extracted from the Persian Garden, Kashan traditional houses, and Persian carpet. symbolism plays an important role in the design of the Persian Garden. Therefore, each zone in this project would be a symbol of an element of the Persian Garden.

The design process started by creating a grid, an initial stage in designing a carpet, subtracting the three existing gardens, and following the concept of 4-fold garden by adding 2 perpendicular walking paths; one connects the main street to the hill, and the second passes through 3 gardens.

To create massing, I drew two sections from a typical Four-fold Garden; one from the walking path and the second from the intersection of two axes where the pavilion is located. Eventually, sections were simplified into two curves. section 1 was used for the carpet studios, and section 2 for exhibitions and dyeing rooms. The mass was divided into ribs that weaved and shifted horizontally to create shade on the exterior spaces and add hierarchy to the gardens from public to private. Curved skylights were added to help natural ventilation, provide interior spaces with natural light, and use the structural quality of the brick.

Finally, Parametric brick panels were designed to create a sense of privacy and reduce light intensity. Blue colour has spiritual meaning in our culture and has widely used in the traditional architecture of Iran. Therefore, bricks are one-side glazed in blue to create a sense of belonging.