In the summer of 2019, we were approached by our client Abadsazan, and tasked to redesign the landscape of their flagship tower, designed by Fluid Motion Architects in a posh location of Tehran, Niavaran. Located in the foothills of Alborz Mountains, Niavaran has always enjoyed a pleasant climate during the warm days of summer which attracted many well-off residents. Just four decades ago, the area was full of orchards and villa houses, which are rare now as the sprawling city began devouring most of them.
At the final stages of construction when we were added to the team, the tower and parts of hard-landscape had already been built. As soon as we started, we found out that we had to deal with a long list of limitations. First of all, parts of landscape, especially in the roof garden area, constructed according to an existing plan could not be redesigned. We were also told that we had to work with the building materials already bought according to the old plan. This was a big challenge as we had almost no control over the color, or texture of materials. Moreover, budget and time were also tight, as it is normally the case with most of the residential landscape projects in Iran. Surrounded by other tall towers, the yard received very little sunshine, thus limited our choices for plants resisted to shade. Besides, what was left of the site to landscape, was filled with existing trees, scattering around without any sense of order. The existing trees, which we were keen to preserve, had been poorly maintained during construction and were in bad shapes. Some had been partly dried out, others had badly pollarded. Not only was it very hard to establish any new planting design order among the existing ones, but everything new would look unattractive among them.
First thing we did, was to prepare an assessment of the existing design which dedicated most the yard to a paved area, and limited the greenery to many relatively small green beds circling the existing trees.
We managed to convince our client to let us merge these small green beds to make a much bigger one; one that would cover the entire width of the site facing the tower. In this way, what was left of “once a lavish orchard”, could engage in a dialogue with the building and its new residents. We then separated the green part from the paved area with a “snake shaped seating wall”. Serpents were considered as mighty patrons and source of life, immortality, fertility, water and wealth in the prehistoric cultures of Iran; even nowadays, people are familiar with the image of a treasure protected by a snake. We took that connotation and used it in our design to convey this message that this serpent-like seating wall is guarding the most important element of the residence, that is to say, the partially saved green pace.
We also included a lawn area in this section that can be used for various activities like dog walking, and playing. The lawn ends with a sitting place surrounded by shade loving plants, flowers, and trees. The seating area is designed to look like a tongue, sticking out from the building at the green space, like it implies that in the battle between development and the green space in this city, the building always wins. Including water features were out of question, as we were told the utility could not be adjusted at the time.
The seating area is designed to look like a tongue, sticking out from the building at the green space,
like it implies that in the battle between development and the green space in this city, the building always wins.
The stretched seating wall also marks the border between the paved area and the green. To provide a place where children can ride their bikes and play, we made the pedestrian circulation wider and merged it with the children playground, in a way that it permits both activities of playing and circulating together. By combining activities that can coexist next to each other, we made more room to save a bigger area for green space.
In the backyard which is fully shaded, we have another green area at the focal point that accompanies by a seating wall that becomes wider at the end to allow a group of people sit next to each other in a circle by the coffee shop. This relatively small yard of 1000 sqm, is a place for resident’s gatherings, playing, walking, with multiple sitting options either in the landscape, next to the coffee shop, or in the yard in front of the lobby. We made sure that all the landscape lines follow those of the building to give cohesion to the whole design.
Building entrance, was a big challenge as two levels with very different slops would meet each other. The steep road at around 10 percent and the moderately sloped walkway at around 2 percent. There was little room to maneuver as travertine slabs, the only material we had to work with, was not flexible like concrete. So we came up with a solution of combining ramps and steps, that is, to use ramps near the sloping road and steps for level changes. It has three parts: Vehicular access, and parking entry; Pedestrian access, and entrance; and a welcoming green space and flowerbed. The height and width of the entrance area have made it large enough to denote style.
Some of the plants used in this project are as follows:
Cornus sanguinea, Ophiopogon jaburan, Daphne odora, Cana indica, Nandina domestica, Phormium tenax, Juniperus horizontalis, Yucca, Acer negundo, aucuba japonica
 Taheri, Sadreddin (2015). “Inversion of a Symbol’s concept”. Tehran: Honarhay-e Ziba Journal, Vol. 20, No. 3.
Gallery/ Design process: