Designed in the late 1950s in Tehran Villa Namazee represents for Gio Ponti his “joie de vivre” philosophy for residential architecture.
It is currently menaced by a development plan that proposes its demolition and replacement by a five-star hotel. The last of the three houses, the Villa Namazee was previously listed as a national treasure. But a court decision has given its current owner permission to delist it.
The prospect has touched a nerve among the country’s architects, prompting them to fight to save the building. Namazee was the last to be built of Ponti’s three famous villas, which greatly inspired a number of architects, including the late Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid. The other two, Villa Planchart and Villa Arreaza, are in Caracas, Venezuela.
Mohammad-Hassan Talebian, the deputy head of Iran’s cultural heritage, handcrafts and tourism organisation, told the Ilna news agency: “The building has been legally taken off the list, so the only way to save it is for the municipality to bring it under public ownership or exchange it for other properties.”
Anonymous activists, named “the people’s committee to protect Tehran’s public houses”, have distributed an online leaflet underlying the significance of the villa and raising concerns about its imminent demolition.
Nashid Nabian, a Harvard graduate and Iranian scholar, said there was not enough sensitivity among Iranians to save the country’s contemporary heritage. She said the proposed hotel threatened the environment because the villa, which was commissioned by the businessman Shafi Namazee during the last shah’s rule, has many old trees within the compound’s walls.
“It is a rare breathing space in the city with a lot of old trees and any construction will exacerbate the ecosystem crisis the area is facing, create huge traffic and lead to more pollution in the city,” she said.
Faryar Javaherian, an Iranian architect, pleaded for it to be saved. “If they want to build a hotel, they still can preserve the villa, it’s an added value, it’s not a distraction,” she said. “You have something good, why destroy it and replace it by something so awful?”