‘A House in Jolfa District’, designed by Iranian architects Ehsan Hosseini and Elham Geramizadeh of Logical Process in Architectural Design, is modestly located in a dense and ancient area of Isfahan between old Armenian churches and old local cafes and small houses. The residential building was the winner of Iran’s Memar Award 2021, an architecture award organized by Memor Magazine. The location of the project in the Jolfa district of Isfahan imposed many constraints on this project. For example, limits have been set on the height of the buildings in order to protect this area, which is rich in valuable cultural heritage. A look at the context in which ‘A House in Jolfa District’ is set would shed some light on why this project has received such a good response despite its modest appearance.
Named after the city of Jolfa in the East Azerbaijan province of Iran, New Jolfa is a district in Isfahan; The second largest city in Iran, located in the center of this country. Once the glorious capital of the Safavid dynasty (16e-18e century), Isfahan is home to amazing Persian-Islamic architecture and many World Heritage Sites. At the heart of this city is the Jolfa district, which is characterized by its large population of Christian Armenians. A population of Armenians was initially moved from the city of Jolfa and housed here by Shah Abbas Safavi, and then many other Armenians migrated to New Jolfa over the centuries, especially after the violence of the Ottoman Empire against them. Today, the Jolfa district is a beautiful, dense area and tourist destination with beautiful old churches and trendy cafes. It is also hailed as a symbol of religious tolerance in a Muslim country.
Close to Iran’s central desert, Isfahan is also known for its extensive gardens and tall trees that provide shade and cool the air in the city’s often harsh climate. Considering this aspect of Iranian architecture, the architects were adamant to give this house a garden, because as residents of this city they have experienced that the well-being of the residents is in close contact with nature.
Height restriction and the density of the Jolfa neighborhood were serious challenges to their goal. Their solution was to dig a void in the house where a small garden in the basement could be formed. The house is sunk into the earth to create a deep garden below ground level, where there is some shade to sit and rest from the heat of the day and allow natural light to find its way in. This empty shaft also provides natural ventilation, as the southern breeze is cooled in the shade of the garden and then travels through the interior spaces and exits the backyard.
The entrance of the house is modest. Minimal black gates alternate with simple yet elegant brick architecture; also an architectural element that is local and traditional to the Jolfa district, moreover, a material that does not penetrate or amplify the heat or cold absorbed from the outside and thus the best material for a city like Isfahan experiencing warm days and frigid nights.
The courtyard garden offers residents the benefit of natural light without feeling the harsh heat. It has also provided an answer to a sensitive cultural issue; the depth of the garden ensures that the family is not overlooked by the adjacent houses which are very close together. Apart from the main garden of the house, the loft has allowed the design to create a small garden on each floor that different residents of the house can enjoy alone or with a guest without disturbing the others.
The inside benefits from an open space concept and large glass walls on all floors allow residents in different parts of the house to take advantage of the view of the garden and the play of light formed by the leaves of the trees. The glass walls create a second inner layer of the house that shields it from cold and hot weather. The outer masonry layer of the house is visible through this glass. The square cavities in the brick wall allow harmless natural light to flood into the house.
The staircase design is in stark contrast to the sterilized and austere forms of the interior spaces. While still white, their sharp edges and geometric shapes create a clever visual dynamic in the otherwise unified environment.
The spaces and floors are not only connected by means of circulation elements, such as the elevator or the stairs, but are also connected to each other via the shafts and the voids that are formed by the geometric design of the house. Life flows in different niches and pieces in ‘A House in Jolfa District’, currents separated by design but also somehow connected, again by the magic of design. Perhaps the poetic phrases of the architects themselves can best describe the architectural concept of the house in the Jolfa district:
A thumbnail is a collage of experience sequences,
the presence of time in the irregular connection of the spaces,
the entanglement of back and forth; outside and inside.”
Name: A house in the Jolfa . district
Place: Isfahan, Iran
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: Logical process office
Design group: Ehsan Hosseini, Elham Geramizadeh, Shirin Sharif-o-nasab, Ahmmadreza Tavakoli