Apartment No. 1
by AbCT


This apartment block in the Iranian town of Mahallat was constructed using the otherwise useless offcuts from local stonecutting businesses.

Apartment No. 1 by AbCT

Stonecutting is the largest trade in the area but is a wasteful process that discards more than half of its produce, so architect Ramin Mehdizadeh of Architecture by Collective Terrain (AbCT) decided to recycle the material and use it as cladding for a building.

Apartment No. 1 by AbCT

"There are some very nice characteristics of this waste, and one is that the thicknesses are all the same," says Mehdizadeh, explaining how easy it is to stack the pieces in rows to form a wall.

"The form is very familiar for the people, because the origin of this form is the quarries, and that's why even a contemporary piece of architecture could sit here easily," he says.

Apartment No. 1 by AbCT

AbCT built up the stones around each elevation of Apartment No. 1, a five-storey block that contains eight apartments on its upper floors and two shops at ground level.

Apartment No. 1 by AbCT

The variations in colour, size and texture give a natural pattern to the walls, which angle outwards at intervals to shield small windows from direct sunlight.

Larger windows are screened by timber shutters made from locally milled wood. Designed in response to the conservative lifestyle of the local community, the shutters help to regulate light and temperature in the apartments at the hottest times of the year.

Apartment No. 1 by AbCT

The building is one of 20 projects on the shortlist for the Aga Khan Award 2013, alongside an Islamic cemetery in Austria and the reconstruction of a refugee camp in Lebanon. Five or six finalists will be revealed later this year and will compete to win the $1 million prize. See more shortlisted projects for the Aga Khan Award.

Apartment No. 1 by AbCT

Photography is by Omid Khodapanahi.

Here's a short project description from the award organisers:

Apartment No. 1

The majority of Mahallat's economy is engaged in the business of cutting and treating stone, over half of which is discarded due to inefficiencies in stone-cutting technology.

This project turns the inefficiency to economic and environmental advantage by reusing leftover stones for both exterior and some interior walls, and has led to the increasing adoption of stone recycling by local builders.

Apartment No. 1 by AbCT

The five-storey structure comprises two ground-level retail spaces and eight three-bedroom apartments above. Its austere prismatic form is balanced by the warmth of the natural materials. Small windows are shielded by triangular stone protrusions, and larger ones have wooden shutters that allow residents to regulate light and temperature levels.

Location: Mahallat, Iran (Central Asia)
Architect: AbCT - Architecture by Collective Terrain, Tehran, Iran
Client: Ramin Mehdizadeh, Hossein Sohrabpoor, Mehdi Mehdizadeh
Completed: 2010
Design: 2007
Site size: Ground floor area: 260 m2 - Total site area: 420 m2

  • Markus

    I like the combination of stone and wood elements on a very basic level.

  • Rob T

    I've never looked at an apartment block and said "wow" before. This is awesome.

  • dUMB

    Second that – very well done to the architects / designers.

  • Colonel Pancake

    This is cutting edge architecture.

    *I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.

  • joaquindcn

    The project looks amazing. Would’ve loved to see the plans, though.

  • blah

    The more I look at it, the more I like it.

  • amsam

    The texture is gorgeous, it looks like tweed in stone. And made from offcuts? Win/win. More please.

  • laura skeeters

    One of the best realisations I have seen in recent years. Beautiful, sustainable, genius loci-conscious and even the interiors are well done.

    I hope to see many more realised projects from AbCT. Well done!

  • Hairissimo

    Sympathy to context can sometimes be a subtle reaction, and all about materiality whilst maintaining a very sculptural and contemporary form. Elegantly detailed too! Bravo AbCT! Wonder if it was very expensive to build in terms of the labour cost even if material was free or almost free. Also would love to see some details.

    • Dear Hairssimo,

      Thank you for the comment. Labour is cheap in Iran. By using the recycled stone, we cut the cost of exterior finishes by 79%. Recycled stones cost $17 per square meter ($0 material and $17 labor) while the regular size stone would cost around $80 per square meters.

      Since exterior finishing was one of the biggest cost, we save around 23% in the whole construction cost.


      • Ladan Alavi

        It’s just stunning. Well done!

  • Marloes

    I would love to see more interior pictures. Looks wonderful!! But what is the influence of this beautiful facade on the interior?

  • Gary Walmsley

    WOW! VERY nice. Fantastic use of “otherwise useless (stone) offcuts”.