IDENTITY CRISIS IN IRANIAN COUNTEMPORARY HOUSING
(ANALAYZING THE EFFECTS OF HOUSING EDUCATION)
Identity as a concept has social and physical connotations. It constitutes a collection of cues recognized by a group of people at a specific time and place. People and places, however, are exposed to change over time. In that sense, identity may change and people may resist this change because they want to feel that they maintain a certain level of continuity. (Mashary Al-Naim, 2008) However, continuity of personal identity in compare with religious and National identity is a very debatable concept. Every unit of society faces a real challenge to maintain its identity for any length of time, especially under conditions of rapid economic and technological change. It is important to understand how the concept of identity is perceived by people, designers, and authors. The role of Art and Architecture in continuity of identity is almost a clear fact, but the importance of architectural education has aroused many debates between the specialists. A lack of identity in contemporary housing architecture in Iran is indicated by many authors (Darab Diba 1982, Kamran Diba, 1989 and Hadi Mirmiran, 1997).
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This raises the following questions: What do we mean by housing identity? How can architects express the personal and social identities of habitants? Is there any relation between housing education and maintaining the individual and social identities? This paper aims to answer these questions. However, the purpose here is to understand why the search for an identity has become an important social and intellectual issue in Iran. We see identity in architecture as a dynamic phenomenon. It can change and reform over time within the frame of the cultural core of society.
This research analyzes two periods of architectural education in Iran before the Islamic revolution and the relation between the academic methods and housing circumstances in each period. The conclusion is the results of comparing these two periods and excavating the main problems in reviving identity in housing architecture. This paper concludes three main conclusions, which are strongly related to each other, and one is the reason for the others.
Identity Crisis, Contemporary Housing, Housing Education, Iran
Research family: This is a Deskwork and Qualitative research, which produces results that are not obtained by statistical procedures or other methods of quantification.
Research methods: This paper is a library based documentary research and it is based on the primary and secondary sources written or gathered by other researchers. According to the subject, most of the primary sources are in Persian language and the author translated the used sentences in to English.
Design of the investigation:
In this research In order to understand the relation between the housing education and housing identity, two specific durations have been analyzed separately in the main chapters. Inside each chapter, main characters of each period have been investigated in three important eras:
Academic Area: in which the general structure of architectural education is described.
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Housing Architecture: This part contains the important architectural movements and describes the existed situation of housing architecture in that period.
Housing Education: Under this subject the relation between the housing educations of each period’s academic area and housing architecture of same duration have been discussed.
The conclusion is the results of comparing these three main factors between two durations and excavating some suggestions for the future of the housing education.
During the twentieth century, the rapid speed of modernization did not give the traditional architecture of Eastern countries a chance to adapt to the changes, therefore, developing countries has transformed from an introvert traditional to extravert modern style and faced architectural identity crisis.
Iranian architects, however have struggled with same main problems: population growth, modernization and globalization. The first one has aroused economic problems and it is directly in relation with poverty which indirectly affects the architecture. The second one had lead to fundamental changes in the construction methods and materials and the last one “globalization” which has affected the cultural and social patterns. mass housing as a new solution, brings up new problems by itself like losing the spatial qualities of individual houses, and when it’s effects doubled by new theories of International Style the problems spread in all countries. Finally the identity crisis of residential context appears in Iran and finding the ways of recreating the national and traditional Identity becomes the main apprehension of Iranian architects. Although these challenges have not been answered by the same methods and various policies were adapted and implemented by the architects, but still there is no specific classified or organized method of architectural education to amend the effects of identity crisis. In order to measure the depth of identity crisis we should focus in housing and residential contexts, not the large scale, public and governmental buildings. By the words of Shenglin Chang (2009) Home is not an object separate from its habitants; it is a place of personalized meaning. In her book, House as a mirror of self, Clare Cooper Marcus (1995) explains that home enables people to express their personal and cultural identities.
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After Iran revolution in1979, neglect of qualitative factors and struggling with the quantity of houses became the start of identity challenges. Now and after three decades, it is obvious that unbelievable growth of population and the foreign methods of architectural education change the primarily challenges to deep identity crisis.
As Iranian famous architect, Darab Diba, mentions in his article, Architectural Education in Iran 1990, “Iran needs an architecture that is faithful to its roots but also one that offers a new and original expression suited to Iranian milieu. This involves a transition from imported architecture to adapted architecture that must be reflected in architectural education. In Iran for fifty years architecture education was influenced by foreign doctrines and especially, by the Beaux-Art system of Paris. This education did not at all fit the cultural and economic needs of Iran.”
During recent years, great efforts have been made in dedication to the revival of cultural values, especially in respect of the education of young architects in developing countries. It appears that the main place for responding to the quest for nourishing from regional values is in universities. (Rafooneh Mokhtarshahi, 2009)
This research analyzes four periods of architectural education in Iran and the relation between the academic methods and housing situation in each period; also it compares the current methods of housing education in west by existent programs in Iran in order to reach theoretical and practical suggestions for housing identity crisis.
First Period: (1931-1962)
Academic Area: Architecture Department in Fine Arts university of Tehran was the first school of architecture in Iran, which was established in 1931. The first dean was Mr. Andre Godard, who inaugurated architecture studies in Iran based on the Beaux-Art method. Although the theories of modern architecture was still in the challenge of acceptance in west, In this period the general trend in design was toward Modern movement and little attention was paid to country and its cultural and national identity. Traditional principles of Persian architecture was completely out of the academic program and by the words of Darab Diba () none of the Iranian architects of this period was able to present and express an appropriate architecture adapted to the culture and physical environment of the country. The main faculty members were Houshang Seihoon, Mohsen Froughi and Abdol Aziz Farmanfarmayan, all graduated from Beaux Art-Paris and Heidar Ghiaye (3 atelier, 1999).
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It is important to mention that the graduated architects of this university were the only Iranian architects who studied inside the country for almost thirty years, until the establishment of Beheshti University which was the second faculty of architecture in Iran.
Housing Architecture: In the first half of this period the profession of architecture was not known by the people and houses were built by the owners and the local masters.
Construction materials were still mud bricks and other vernacular materials, especially in rural houses. It was during the second half and after the world war when the new materials like were used in 44 percent of the city houses (Naser Pakdaman 1977).
Architects became the part of the design process, but only for the private and rich clients and also a few apartments were built in big cities. The number of Housing project as what we mean today was less than ten and there were all located in Tehran. Mentionable examples are 400 Housing – built in 1951, Narmak Housing, 750 houses – 1955, Farah Housing, 632 houses – 1962 and Nazi Abad Housing, 250 houses – 1956. In all these examples the blocks were the same and the houses plans were type plans.
As it has been mentioned, in this period the population growth was not speedy and also the effects of rural migration to the cities has not been rise up, so the necessity of specific housing education was not known during this period.
Same as the western academic area, students of Architecture University of Tehran learned to design modern urban houses and country villas but the large scale housing like multifamily or social housing were not included in the academic programs.
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Second Period: (1962-1979)
In 1962 the education system of all Iranian universities changed from French methods to the American methods and this transformation led to fundamental changes in art and architecture faculty. Besides these changes in academic area, there were a few changes inside the architecture faculty which were important, in 1963 architecture education gained a new vitality when Houshang Seihoon became the third Dean of the faculty. He added the first faculty of urban design to Tehran Art and Architecture University and invited many foreign professors most of them from Italy. He also absorbs some of the Iranian architects who were studied in the western universities. The years between 1962 and 1972, the whole program was influenced by foreign doctrines and International Modern style of architecture.
During this period beside the foreign architects and the Iranian architects who were graduated from western universities, architects graduated from Tehran University became active in the private and governmental offices. Now the primarily results of the So in order to analyze the characters of housing architecture in this period we should divide two main areas of housing design:
1: mass housing and the role of government employee’s architects:
Although the number of mass housing projects were a few and there were all located in Tehran and some other big cities like Mashhad, but because of the new vision of the government in solving the lack of houses, we can consider the last years of this period as a starting years of large scale housing in Iran.
Government employees from all three kinds of educated architects, – foreign architects, Iranian architects graduated from western universities and architects who were graduated from Tehran and Beheshti University – became designers of this kind of mass social housings but according to what they have learned in that times academic areas, Modern style of Western after war housing design like functional uniform facades and repetitive apartment plans became the main concept of large scale projects. The best example of these housing is Ekbatan housing which was designed by American architects and built by European engineers.
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In this scale of housing except the Shushtar New Town designed by Kamran Diba in 1974 we cannot define any attention to the Iranian’s personal, traditional and national identities.
-Ekbatan New Town (Housing) Tehran-1975-1979
This project with 15500 units was designed by Gruzen Samton LLP from the United States. Although it is still one of the most famous and largest residential complexes in Tehran but There are no cultural relationships between the project and the context. Project has three phase Blocks are 5 to 12 floors, and the units are single floored and double floors (Duplex).
Ekbatan collects within its vast complex housing over 70,000 people, a range of residents with different cultural beliefs and lifestyles, and throws them all together. There are no longer small courtyards for families to gather for tea, and one sees modernist comedies such as coming home to the wrong building because they all look the same and witnessing your neighbors’ most private moments through the floor to ceiling windows. (Brain Ackley)
-Shushtar New Town (Housing)
This project was a town for workers and employees of the Karoun agro-industry located across the river from the historic town of Shushtar. The major design feature is a multi-faceted central east-west pedestrian boulevard. This consists of many gardens, paved squares, covered and shaded resting places, arcades, bazaars, fountains, and occasional use of Persian mosaic tile work.
The neighborhoods were designed to encourage movement in the direction of this pedestrian boulevard. Major public activities, such as schools, bazaars, and a variety of community affairs occur along this spine, enhancing its prominence.
The streets were designed not primarily for a corridor like function, but to generate and maintain a life of their own. The automobile is segregated from internal community life and all parking areas are concentrated collectively at strategic points. Important to add that this project is the winner of the Agakhan Award for Architecture and exhibited extensively in the west. Unfortunately this project was a partially built and in post revolution era has been grossly neglected and partially destroyed.
2: individual houses and the role of dependent architects
By accepting the Architecture as a real profession in the public point of view, the architects who had their own offices became the designers of most of the homes and apartments in big cities. Although against of public demands, most of the architects preferred Modern Style of houses and some were following the clients out of value interests, but there were a few architects who were trying to pay attention to the cultural and local aspects of design. The clients of these architects were only the intellectual and rich people who were interested in traditional spatial qualities of old houses.
In the last years of this period and after reforms in academic programs, for the first time the need for housing education has shown up. Therefore the course in which students had to design a multifamily housing was added to the program. As it has been mentioned in Academic area of this period, the shadow of international modernism was more powerful than before and the main approaches of the design courses was following the modern principles. Again there were no attention to the culture and social characters of Iranian traditional houses and no attempt for reviving the traditional principles by new methods of construction and modern material. Architects became graduated from universities learning the language of International Style Architecture and neglecting the importance of cultural roots and national identities.
At the same time some of the foreign books and magazines, all appreciating the modern architecture became the references of academic courses and encouraged students to think and design internationally. As a result of architect’s attention to these new references the first Iranian magazines of architecture were published, by same approaches and goals.
Although in this period lots of governmental and public buildings, monumental elements and private houses were designed by accepting the necessity of localization and respecting the Persian and Islamic architecture, but in terms of Housing Education there was no agreement between the leaders of architecture faculties. The results of this unforgivable mistake in the housing education became clear after a decade, when lots of cubic forms of blocks and apartments with repetitive facades decrease the sense of aesthetic of public and forced them to live in these types of modern boxes and forget the spatial qualities of their traditional houses.
This paper concludes three main conclusions, which are strongly related to each other, and one is the reason for the others.
1- Looking forward and searching for the solution of identity crisis in western new theories will not led to the practical and effective responses. First, we have to find the starting points in order to define and analyze the causes of such a social phenomenon. The roots of identity lost in Iranian contemporary housing are related to the countries circumstances before the Islamic revolution.
2- Results of comparing the circumstances of housing architecture and housing education shows that these two variables are strongly related to each other and every decision in the academic area will lead to changes in the professional area of housing. That is how we can change the quality of housing architecture not directly in professional area but indirectly by trading sensitive and aware generation of architects in the academic schools of architecture
3- Professional area of housing is changing by many reasons like political decisions, social transformation, and economic fluctuation. It is obvious that architects cannot control these parameters therefore they have no responsibility in this areas, but the architectural education is directly related to the architects. We are all students for years, we became instructors and architects, we wrote the reference books and articles and we design the methods of architectural education. Therefore, we should accept the whole responsibility and try to redesign the education system – considering the demands of new generation and respecting the national and personal identities. –
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