My thesis will be a center for Iranian art and culture in Washington D.C., the aim being to familiarize Americans and Iranians living in the United States with Iranian culture, and to serve as a center for research on Iran and Iranian art. I am planning to have my site in the District of Columbia, not only because of its national prestige but also because it is home to the second largest population of Iranians in the country. About 28,651 Iranian-Americans live in the D.C. metropolitan area.
This institution, modeled on the Alliance Francaise and other national cultural institutions, would serve as a bridge between the United States and Iran in a time of tension and misunderstanding. The program elements would accommodate education and performance of music, visual arts, traditional crafts, dance and literature. This center would celebrate Iranian culture both by observing traditional festivals and occasions and through opportunities for research. Such an institution would require a variety of spaces including class rooms, meeting rooms, a ballroom, and a library, all of which should reflect Iranian culture and history.
In beginning to research these topics, I did not find sufficient local resources, and found it necessary to travel to Iran and experience the culture and visit various cities and historic buildings in person. This allowed me to document both buildings of interest and urban conditions. Of specific importance to me was documenting the experience of spaces, as well as the use of light and natural conditions. I focused also on the phenomena of everyday life of Iranians as it interacts with their architectural heritage.
I visited the cities of Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz. In Tehran the focus was on modern buildings and cultural centers such as the Niavaran Cultural Center (a contemporary art museum by Kamran Diba) and Tatre Shahr (The city theatre). In Isfahan and Shiraz the emphasis was on historic buildings, mosques, schools, baths and bazaars as well as other public places. Some Palaces and gardens were also visited to research the use of outdoor and indoor spaces and their interaction. I will be continuing my studies with further research.
A number of themes were considered on my thesis. (1) Stylistic transformation from the golden age to modern times; (2) Exploration of the effects of adopting a westernized lifestyle in domestic and public space; (3) The role of gender in shaping space; (4) Inward focused architecture versus externally focused; (5) Documentation of cultural conditions that I have experienced and observed, but have not formally analyzed. (6) The transformation of architecture throughout Iran's history; (7) The adoption and adaptation of modern architecture.