In the heart of Tehran, near City Theater, a heritage building with about 100 years old age, is the host of Dr. Ali Akbar Saremi and his fellows (colleagues). Talking about architecture, especially Persian architecture, with two masters of art perhaps is a wish for every author in architecture documents. Taghi Radmand and Ali Akbar Saremi are old friends who think new about architecture and respect to past heritages and predict a bright future is for Iranian national architecture.
Louie Kahn, unique master of architecture, says: "school is a place beneath shadow of a tree which a group gathers and someone is a teacher and doesn't know that and the rest are students and do not know either; This means school."This was a sentence that Radmard and Saremi told together.
Student of "Louis Kahn" in past years spoke about Persian architecture and specially the identity of persian style school architecture and still have sensation of shadow of a tree and an unknown teacher...!
-Mr.Dr. Saremi, your position in case of designing regard to the Persian architectural identity is special when we review your resume –past works- and consider that this issue was always a challenge for you to follow permanent values in Persian architecture, and write books about that, or while designed Shohada square in Mashhad, you presented new concepts in Persian architecture, with this background, we expect you give us a definition about this issue – identity- that correspond to our present time , as well as past, after that we would ask more questions in detail.
Saremi- Your question has two sections, one is connected to the identity in architecture, generally, and another is identity in architecture schools specifically; in case of identity in generally concept, indeed, I can not explain one definition, but I will present the procedure that in my opinion would result in the creation of a good work in architecture. My personal experience and my fellows were to try to search all over Iran and recognize Persian architecture, take photos, notes and sketch… recognition, visiting, concentration and thinking are similar to absorption of the light and spirit of a building and it is different from the record of a camera with 1/60 speed While you recognize the Persian architecture it will effect on you… sun, salt desert, south light, north light, all will have influence on you, for sure. All these impacts cause the mind be full of Persian architecture. Further more, we had this opportunity to study in foreign architecture schools, be familiar with the works of modern architects and try to bring our works and attitudes near them.
In general, I think if your mind becomes full of something, it will have identity, like and empty cup, it comes out when it is full. Architecture is not words, an architect has to see, draw sketches, read books and magazines, to search buildings and design, after these steps if the one has talent, then he or she can design.
-The most interesting part in your response, in my opinion, was that you pointed to the procedure of identity's creation, in other words, the process that will shape and get the result. In addition to your specific poetical attitudes and scientific result for the creation of concept, you use sets of receiving and giving capabilities, according to the background of this question, if you lead this process as a master architecture, how do you achieve your objectives? I heard somewhere from you that you analyzed dominant connections on information our time and generalized a set of values globally, it means Persian architecture can take a place which has special features in the world.
Saremi- Most of the times, we think, if we had an organization under the name of young people, we could lead youth to a direction that they could be better, In fact, I am not agree with these discussions. We cannot inject identity or make an organization for identity. I mean, firstly, the leader has to be identified in cultural issues and these groups of leader have to be recognized and be qualified. Sometimes, they told us, you are a leader for Iranian architecture, so recommend the construction minister what to do. At present, we are in a situation that can not organize a group to lead Tehran architects and practically, it is not possible something like this happen. Although, competition is right action and as a type pf leader ship can encourage the best architects.
-The question is how dose the architecture – along with identity- have influence as a process and work as a channel for leadership in community?
Saremi-This issue is when we talk about a process, it has not been pre-determined, but, it is a set. I will back to this poetical sentence which asked Shamloo, when do you compose a poem? He said, when it comes, or Molana walked and composed a poem which shows his mind was fill, it means perhaps it is not the organized section of our mind , but it is the gray section of mind when it is full, it comes out.
-I search for a technique, I mean methodology , we imagine your mind is full of creativity, naturally you have sets of techniques which are objective, because architecture is not similar to composing of a poem, and has rules as well as sets of responsibilities. In the techniques that you defined, you would not say it comes by itself and you made design. My consideration of technique is not a branch of art, but my aim is the method of production and development in architecture.
Saremi-this issue has two parts; one part is what you mentioned. It means a project has it by self. A school in the north or a house in the south, it is a start point by itself and dose not has any connection to the technique, but it depends on your historical memory about this work. After beginning, it is a program which is called a project. Therefore, technical issues are going to be considered as a consequent that it is quantities. It means the quantities and techniques have to be in right order, which is not less or more.
-How dose quality produce? Quality develops easily, and everyone can produce it by education and includes the quality of space.
Saremi- our master-kahn- believed that there is something like form (idea) that has no shape and it is not a dear, we have to look for it and find out what it is. He said perhaps, it is the first seed of everything, and pointed to the sentence of "go to beginning" which has a root in Plato's meditation, it means if we accept there is something idea behind everything, it is the best.
Radmard-Indeed, this issue is similar to this fact that you make something immeasurable, measurable. It means you are able to identify something that is not identifiable, like a sculptor which creates from a hard stone, a smooth shape. This is part of capabilities of someone who makes this event happen practically; perhaps this technique is teachable.
- It means the capability of making quality, quantities while keep their value (quality)?
Radmard- Yes, indeed make something quantative doesn't mean to make less its quality. Because, something is accessible and has capability to be built that is transformable to number. This covers parts of technique that you asked about. We learn this method and technique, how to organize mind, and how to versify (put in order) ingredients. The method of research is like this.
Kahn believes that architecture is not problem solving, it means before that it is something else that must be achieved. For instance, each player will not be a composer! In my opinion identity is not something that can be constructive. Everyone has an identity. What is identity for every person? How my identity is different form yours, while most of measurements are equal and identity comes out from that environment.
- Identity is quality; Because quality is not measurable, according to Kahn's view, we have factors that construct identity and make measurable identity. What are the factors to make a design have identity? How dose a Persian place will create?
Saremi-If we consider back to school again, we get a result that parts of our identity is our memories and experiences and the other part is inherited. Imagine the experience that we have from our schools, the school which I attended was a pattern of a good school perhaps in case of building a Persian school. I used my past experiences. School has to be a place where students enjoy. Students has to enjoy of school, further study, enjoy is important. While school was hard, mathematics, geometry, punishment… but we enjoyed school times. Each school has to have a open court, but at present our schools do not have. All of the school's ground dose not have a name, spaces which have not been defined are important to be at schools and student have to discover them.
Radmard-Kahn says: lots of urban spaces are waiting some things happen for them. In our architecture and urban design we do not have such spaces to be expected something happen for them. In my opinion, a good architecture and a food city is where every children can discover them by him/herself. This kinds of spaces existed in our city and local regions, before. I do not like to face with nostalgic, because it is not correct, but we should say that, at present our children do not have good memories of their small schools. I do not think they speak highly about them for their children and grand children.
-Practically you did build a Persian school, according to your experiences. Tell us what has happened in that building?
Radmard-It is not the first time that we face with a project like this as a design for a school. This matter comes from our memories which have considered as basic ideas, at first. Naturally, experiences form past has impact on design and consequently the school has two-three basic sections, classes, offices, public spaces and according to the program, two or three alternatives presented. This project was self-defined, but we needed a pattern to build a building that has lots of potentials.
-How was the development of space for you? re-definition, re-development and nostalgic, how all did get result to design the school?
Saremi-We designed the building in this way that solve the issue of neighborhood (incase of a school for girls). Moreover, school became a happy space and a happy space needs happy and bright materials. Some colors, trees, light shadows have to hided, space for children to hide… Spaces do not have to be defined, only.