Teheran (AsiaNews) – Iran is "on the verge of a new era for architecture," this according to Iranian architects.
As crippling economic sanctions are partially lifted, ending years of international isolation, the Middle Eastern country is poised to see its economy expand, demand for contemporary lifestyles grow, and investment in tourist infrastructure boom.
This is creating new opportunities for professionals in the once isolated nation. Reza Mafakher of Iran-based firm Xema architects is one of them.
"Iran is opening its doors to the world," he told Dezeen, one of the world’s foremost architecture, interiors and design magazine.
The election of reformist President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 and the easing of Western economic sanctions last January following the nuclear deal are the two key factors behind Iran’s changing architectural landscape.
"This represents the beginning of a boom in the industry," Mafakher explained. "We believe that we are on the verge of a new era for Iran and its architecture." This is especially true for the capital Tehran.
Several recent projects illustrate this trend, including the new 270-metre-long Tabiat Bridge, which was designed by Iranian architect Leila Araghian when she was just 26 years old.
The project is Iran's largest pedestrian bridge and is located in a northern area of Tehran known as Abbas Abad. Originally earmarked as a residential zone for the military, it has since filled up with libraries, museums, and cultural centres.
Tabiat Bridge is one of three Iranian developments – more than any other nation – shortlisted for this year's Aga Khan Award, whose US$ 1 million acknowledges excellent architecture and infrastructure design.
Numerous residential projects – as well as a small cafe in Tehran that was designed to promote the congregation of people in spaces previously heavily guarded by the Pasdaran – highlight the changes taking place in the country.
The emergence of a young, highly educated and increasingly connected generation is the driving force behind many of the new projects, this according to architect Alireza Taghaboni of Iranian studio Next Office.
"The young generation are working, they are penetrating the economy and business," said Taghaboni. "They want modern, new things and a higher quality of life, so they design better projects."
For Iranian Vice President Masoud Soltanifar, Iran is also preparing for a "tsunami" of tourists in the coming years, and unveiled a package of measures designed to further boost numbers including the construction of hundreds of four and five star hotels in the capital and elsewhere.
However, despite the accolades and renewed interest from overseas, the development of high-quality architecture in Iran still faces an uphill battle against build-fast-and-cheap developers.
"Iran has a rich architectural heritage but unfortunately the contemporary architecture of Iran is chaos," said Ali Dehgani of Ayeneh Office. "Most of the buildings are often built by people who don't value the quality of space."
Other daily challenges faced by architects include the "severe filtering" of information, a shortage of modern technology in construction, traditional building codes and expensive land values in big cities.