Hormuz Island, Iran
On the Persian Gulf’s Hormuz Island, Tehran-based ZAV Architects have built colorful, ecofriendly, and sustainable solutions for housing made of rammed earth and sand.
Intended as a project that encourages “community empowerment via urban development,” the domes have been built with the help of local residents, who were trained with the necessary construction skills.
The new housing is located in Hormuz, a formerly glorious historic port in the strategic strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, South of Iran, that controls the shipment of petroleum from the Middle East.
Named “Presence in Hormuz 2”, the 10,300-square-metre housing contains 200 domed housing units in various scales that are scattered at site in groups and create a fifth facade from the top.
The multipurpose cultural residences area called “Majara” residence (meaning adventure), which ties together the lives of local people and visitors both culturally and economically.
“The island has outstanding colorful surreal landscapes,” said Mohamadreza Ghodousi of ZAV
“Oddly, the local inhabitants of the beautiful, touristic and politically strategic island struggle economically, getting involved in illegal trafficking activities using their boats.”
“In a country where the state struggles with political disputes outside its borders, every architectural project becomes a proposal for internal governing alternatives, asking basic questions: what are the limits of architecture and how can it suggest a political alternative for communal life? How can it attain social agency?” Ghodousi asked.
The new development realized as a series of urban developments commissioned by a semipublic institution in the area, was completed in order to empower the local community of the island.
Designed as a continuous, colorful domed structure, the project is inspired by granule structures of the land and are used to create a macro-level architecture.
Derived from the site’s inputs, the architects used sand particles and filled in the bags that shape the domes, which are the spatial particles that make up the entire building.
The technique, known as “Superadobe,” was invented by Iranian-born architect Nader Khalili—a
simple and innovative technique used in the region.
Their small scale makes them compatible with the building capabilities of local craftsmen and unskilled workers, which have been prepared for this project with previous smaller projects.
In this project, a carpet is woven with granular knots inspired by the particles that make up the ecotone of the island,
The sandbags that create the spatial particles (aka domes) are filled with the dredging sand of the Hormuz dock as if the earth has swollen to produce space for accommodation.
In between these clusters, walkways and other connective spaces for gathering, playing and resting are formed.
“Their small scale makes them compatible with the building capabilities of local craftsmen and unskilled workers, which have been prepared for this project with previous smaller projects,” explains Ghodousi.
Seen from far away, the domes seem to echo the landscape, while offering a brightly colored contrast to the earth from which they are made. The designers make an interesting analogy of these domes as parts of a vibrant carpet.
In the interiors, the architects designed colorful interiors which is a continuation of the outside appearance of the development. The interiors are based on a simple layout – they are commonly filled with a flexible arrangement.
The way in which the interiors are painted also offer clues into how to use the space. The inherent roundness of the spaces are a refreshing alternative to the angularity of orthogonal buildings.
Inside the domes’ shady interior, one can see that this type of construction is well-suited to the arid climate, as earth-based materials provide wonderful thermal mass. That means that the domed interiors stay cool during the day as the thick earthen walls absorb the sun’s heat, and at night, when temperatures drop, the walls can radiate that stored heat, helping to regulate temperature fluctuations.
Presence in Hormuz 2 housing also contains amenity domes such as staff rooms, cafe, resting rooms, storage, laundry, tourist info, salon and prayer room.
“Architecture has the capacity be a mediator in the middle ground that converges the interests of different groups, from the state and investors to various classes and groups of people,” continues Ghodousi.
“Majara does so in bringing together the owners of land from the neighboring port of Bandar Abbas who organize an annual landart event in Hormuz, the investors from the capital city Tehran, and the local people of Hormuz as partners in the project.”
Architects: ZAV Architects and Nader Khalili
Lead Architects: Mohamadreza Ghodousi, Fatemeh Rezaei, Golnaz Bahrami, and Soroush
Client: Presence in Hormuz
Managing Contractor: Hormat Ghasemi
Assisting Contractor: Ramin Koulaghani, Amin Timas
Structural Engineers: Behrang Baniadam, Rouhi Touski
Environment Consultants: Salman Rasouli, Roya Yazdizadeh
Landscape Architects: Maryam Yousefi and Morteza Adib
Photographs: ZAV Architects, by Tahmineh Monzavi