Please tell our readers about your design principles and philosophy? And what particular aspects of your work have been shaped by your Iranian background?
Growing up in a desert the environment tends to strip everything down to the essentials without diminishing its extraordinary presence and beauty. While it is outwardly harsh, one intimate with its nature finds sensual lines and magnificent vistas that embolden the senses and a void that is constantly being tested and carved by the fierce winds. We always try to understand the essence of each project and begin our work with original concepts. Sensitive to each environment we built upon, we make sure that each project is simple, efficient and environmentally sustainable and culturally relevant to the people of that location.
Iran’s rich cultural heritage in arts, music, literature, poetry and sciences - all brought together in its extraordinary architecture - was certainly influential in my development and it remains a long shadow under which I find myself. Every summer we would visit my grandparents in Isfahan. My father’s hometown is one of the few places in the world that leaves one with astonishment and awe. It is a city of amazing Persian gardens and magnificent blue-domed mosques and palaces mostly built by Shah Abbas the Great in the 17th century. There are pedestrian bridges like no other in the world with picturesque, organic bazaars, and a host of smaller but exquisite mosques and pavilions. Isfahan is truly the museum of Persian architecture. The tactility, materiality and use of arts and crafts throughout our projects - regardless of scale - are what we carry within us, borne of experiences in Isfahan. The use of geometry, craft, and technology is apparent in all our projects. Inspired by the renown Persian polymath figures like Omar Khayam, who was a philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and poet, and who also wrote treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy, and music, we developed our holistic approach to design and architecture.
You have in many ways expanded and redefined the standard definition of architecture in the holistic approach of your designs? Can you tell us more about this?
For nearly three decades, we have focused on a holistic approach to design, ranging from master planning and architecture - to interior design, furniture, lighting, product design and recently jewelry. Our approach is rooted in a firm belief that design is fundamental to improving the quality of life and, with an integrated and unified approach, architecture can become a total work of art. For us Architecture cannot be defined as one thing, style, philosophy or “ism.” It is the amalgamation of many things which, at their best, help us define who we are today and who we might become tomorrow. It’s the means of comprehending and encountering the invisible, where beauty, sensuality, functionality, technology and philosophy connect the body and mind. Great architecture is one that challenges our perception of life and living, helping us in finding an alternative mode of seeing and acting upon the precious landscape.
What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to be remembered for?
Architecture is not about making flamboyant forms or structural gymnastics but to create environments that expand the emotional possibilities of place, offering a wider range of human experiences. It is important to find your inner voice. If architecture is ultimately the articulation and manifestation of our experiences, then we should see differences in how each gender designs. I believe women architects will change the field of architecture and I would like to be remembered for my contributions as one of the women architects who is pushing the boundaries of field.
What is the most challenging project you have ever worked on and why?
Our “ Jewels of Salzburg” project has been one of our most challenging. This project, which we won in an international competition, is important because we were the winners among the world’s best known architects such as Souto Moura (Portugal), Snøhetta (Oslo), Kengo Kuma (Tokyo), Yamaguchi (Osaka), Toshiko Mori (NY), Delugan-Meissl (Vienna), Langhof (Berlin) to name a few. This 80 million-dollar mixed-use development demonstrates our holistic philosophy, as we have designed the master plan, the architecture of the six new buildings containing 100 luxury Apartments, renovation of existing historic vaults, some of the interiors, and the main landscape elements as well. It is, however, neither the scale nor the challenges we confronted with the city agencies and the building codes that make our Salzburg project significant. It is the relationship between architecture and nature that we have created, a dialogue and meditative experience we have carved at the edge of the rock wall, which guides and invites the public along a creek on the edge of the site, while providing privacy for those living there.
As I noted earlier, for us architecture is much more than the construction of buildings; it is where our dreams transcend realities of life. It is a commitment that will carry you to places you had never dreamed of and knew could exist before you began. Finally, this project is one of the very few new constructions permitted in the historic city of Salzburg, offering Mozart’s birthplace a destination for the architecture of the 21st century.