Dezeen Magazine

Expanding Iranian Ancient Architecture by Mohammad Hassan Forouzanfar
Zaha Hadid's Port House over Tepe Sialk in Kashan

Architect overlays famous modern buildings on Iran's ancient palaces and castles

Architect Mohammad Hassan Forouzanfar has created photomontages that combine archaeological sites in Iran with contemporary buildings by architects including Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind and Norman Foster.

Forouzanfar's conceptual project, called Expanding Iranian Ancient Architecture, imagines modern buildings intersecting with architecture that is thousands of years old.

Expanding Iranian Ancient Architecture by Mohammad Hassan Forouzanfar
Daniel Libeskind's Royal Ontario Museum extension over Rostam Castle

Famous existing buildings such as Studio Libeskind's addition to the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada and I M Pei's glass pyramid for the Louvre are superimposed over pre-Islamic castles and royal palaces at UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran.

In one image, Zaha Hadid Architects's Port House fire station extension cantilevers over Tepe Sialk, an ancient archaeological site in Kashan.

In another, Foster + Partners' glazed superstructure from the Hangzhou Apple Store protects the remains of Takht-e-jamshid in Fars.

Expanding Iranian Ancient Architecture by Mohammad Hassan Forouzanfar
Foster + Partners' Hangzhou Apple Store over Takht-e-jamshid

Forouzanfar has collaged these images to examine the tension between visions of the past and the future, and start a conversation about preservation.

"We have a valuable legacy from Iran's past that has become a global record. But due to neglect and lack of protection, many of these buildings have been destroyed or are in danger of being destroyed," Forouzanfar told Dezeen.

Expanding Iranian Ancient Architecture by Mohammad Hassan Forouzanfar
I M Pei's Louvre pyramid over Chaqazanbil

By creating photomontages of UNESCO-listed sites overlaid with modern landmark buildings, Forouzanfar wants to highlight how Iran's architectural legacy is being neglected and ask how it could be restored.

"Preservation and restoration of monuments are important in a country with a lot of historical heritage, and its strategies need to be constantly reviewed to find the best practices and the most up-to-date principles," he said.

"Historic monuments in Iran are eroding and decaying, and are less likely to be restored by modern methods that may arise from contemporary critical thinking."

Expanding Iranian Ancient Architecture by Mohammad Hassan Forouzanfar
Libeskind's National Holocaust Museum on the ruins of Rstam Castle

Linking architecture from the Western canon to pre-Islamic architecture with these palimpsest pictures was a deliberately thought-provoking choice, said Forouzanfar.

"The additions of contemporary Western architecture offer a contradictory mix that links Iran's past to the future and present of the West," he explained.

"I always consult the good architects of Iran and talk to them about my designs. But I am more interested in the critical approaches of architects such as Peter Eisenman and Daniel Libeskand, and try to study their works and their approach to the problem carefully."

Expanding Iranian Ancient Architecture by Mohammad Hassan Forouzanfar
Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind combined with Naqsh-e Rostam

Using contemporary architecture to help preserve UNESCO World Heritage sites is a delicate balance for architects.

In Bahrain, Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati has built a vast red concrete canopy to protect the ruins of an ancient marketplace and provide a unique visitor experience.

Images courtesy of Mohammad Hassan Forouzanfar.