Mazyar Mahmoudabadi, Architect, Senior Lecturer, and Academic Member, Sepehr University talks about his finding, new inspirations, views on architecture and how they fit into Iran’s wider industry.
What does your job involve?
My job is more about how things work as architecture. Working as an architect is like conducting an orchestra.
What made you get into architecture?
There was no school of architecture in Isfahan (the capital of Iranian architecture) until I was in high school. I was concerned about what major I was interested in doing. There were a few students in the high school’s final year who attended Isfahan’s first school of architecture in the same year (mostly from families who had a background in architecture).
During my final year in high school, I went to visit one of my school friends who was a first year architecture student at the time. Working hard on these things seemed so new to me; it was not reading and writing as ordinary, but drawing and making. I found my interest in architecture and joined the school in February 1993 for almost 10 years up to my MA.
Were you encouraged growing up to go into a creative career path?
I would say yes but maybe indirectly. Isfahan is a living museum with uncountable samples of creative artworks. My father is a History Professor at the University of Isfahan, and my mother has taught art in high school for 25 years. They love painting, music, film, poetry, and traveling like many couples during the 1970s. Almost all my childhood holidays were around historic architectural works, museums and festivals, around the country and abroad. Creativity and originality have always been appreciated my whole life. Maybe this is why my siblings are in creative industries too.
What challenges do you face working and running a business in Iran?
The biggest would be the economic challenges as many elsewhere. A design firm hangs on the projects which are going to be built. Our clients are unsure about investing in the building industry happily, until the crisis is shut down.
On the other hand, architectural values seem to be being rethought recently by joining many architectural schools all around Iran. Thousands of educated and registered architects are in the process of project hunting and expressing a variety of ideas in front of the clients. The quantity of work forces may create quality in some ways but it breaks each projects’ income down by offering unreasonably low fees for their architectural works because of fierce competition. It kills motivation in the young generation of architects. Nevertheless, I wish architectural education in Iran had been more focused on research sooner. What I’m interested in with architecture is the field of design but developing architectural research in parallel with the field of design increases the job opportunities and enriches the architectural industry.
What inspires you?
As an architect I am inspired by the other architects’ practices and the literature of architectural spaces.
But in person, I am in love with cameras, as the machines that create shot space, also musical instruments that create sonic space, and every possible way of experiencing those. I also love the adrenaline that comes out of the summit of an adventure. They all cause changing space which is the area of my interest; architectural space and its application in time and place through different histories and geographies. This space is more mental than physical.
How would you describe the architectural industry in Iran?
During the past century, a Western-look architectural industry has gradually grown out of the traditional architecture practiced for tens and tens of centuries. It has changed the forms of the cities, so changes the topic into ‘how to industrialize the Iranian architecture’? Semiotic recombination has been needed and measures have been taken. And it may offer the world with a new age Iranian architecture.
Do you feel there is a cross-culture misunderstanding between the West and Iran?
Yes indeed, but the gap is not bigger than the cross-culture misunderstanding between our neighbours.
What do you do to include your culture and heritage in your work?
The geography of the place we are born and bred in, as well as the history, directly affects our culture. I believe no one can live far away from their roots for a long time. As a young architect I was so interested with new ideas coming from different cultures but I gradually understood that what makes those works interesting for me is the adaptation to their environments and their historical references. These make a work culture-friendly.
What are your goals and ambitions for the future?
To work harder, practice more new subjects, and new adventures.