Created in 2012 by the Kalout Architecture Studio, the Emam Reza cultural and religious complex is a dynamic urban space appreciated by all ages and tastes.

The Emam Reza complex, innovative and beautiful in the heart of Tehran

Created in 2012 by the Kalout Architecture Studio, the Emam Reza cultural and religious complex is a dynamic urban space appreciated by all ages and tastes. According to Saeed Boreiri and Samaneh Ghasempour, the architects responsible for the project, the site1 of the complex in the heart of the capital is conducive to social interaction and the participation of different generations and social groups.


This magnificent center of 7000 m2 houses a mosque, an art gallery, a coffee shop, an amphitheater and a computer center. The different functional areas of the building are organized around the central dome in glass panels in stone-clad wings. The dome basically covers a traditional Shabestan, which is a typical underground space found in Iranian houses, mosques and schools. According to the architects, the unique design has been influenced by both tradition and functional requirements.


The main idea of the interrelation between different social groups is reflected in the final shape of shabestan by the lateral wings of the building, which rise from the ground with an innovative visual form. To make the building in harmony with its use, the architects built the roof in the form of intertwined fingers, symbolizing unity and social cohesion.


Covering a vast area, shabestan is intended to promote the spiritual experience of a relationship with the Creator. This relationship is also suggested by a recessed courtyard characteristic of Persian architecture, which allows users to break away from the main crowd to experience this architecture in a quiet space. This space is a haven of peace and distance from everyday life, always to facilitate a certain experience of transcendence.


The notices written on the site's Guestbook show a return to Persian Islamic architecture in an original and new version.


The various parts of the construction fulfill different functions. The stone-clad wings around the central dome were built above the shabestan. The main dome, on which the Divine Names have been engraved, responds to prayers that rise up and down the dome. Another symbol is the statue of a cedar implemented as a reference to Persian culture. Cedar is the tree that represents constancy, life and freedom.


The dome is made of hand-made glass plates engraved with the Divine Names, while bricks are laid to create a complex repetitive pattern along the main walls. Another element borrowed from traditional Persian architecture is the inner courtyard which houses a small pool.


In 2016, the complex won the A + prize in the religious buildings competition. Organized by Architizer, the awards encourage and celebrate the best projects of the year. Their mission is to appreciate innovative architectural projects that have a concrete positive impact on everyday life.


The design of a complex with so many varied uses has not been simple. The main challenge was to ensure harmony and coherence of the whole, while taking into account many different factors, such as functionality and attractiveness for the new generation.


As the main feature of the complex is to offer a religious space, the shabestan is presented as a focal point in its design. The impressive size of this room is in keeping with the demands of a high-traffic place of worship and allows worshipers in the community to experience the experience of connecting with their peers. Islam is a religion that emphasizes the importance of these resonances and interrelations.


In view of the great variety of underground spaces, the footprint of the parts above the floor of the complex is comparatively minimal, but impacts the style of the building. The design of the underground areas is strongly influenced by the architecture of ancient Persia (which still inspires modern Iran) and emphasizes ancestral architectural continuity. Islamic art and calligraphy adorn almost all surfaces of the complex, in keeping with the religious dimension of the building.


The architects of Studio Kalout used the brick in the lining of the corridors. The walls of the corridors are therefore geometrically arranged in alternation with the glass to express the symbolic upward movement of the earth to light. Hand-made, the glass covering the main dome features religious calligraphy engraved on it. From the calligraphy prayers at the ground level and to forge a face-to-face connection, they ascend to the peak of Shabestan to further emphasize the transcendental experience.

Concerning the elements of the facade, the presence of the flowing water makes it possible to suggest the transparency. Water also adds a sense of tranquility to the complex, which is ideal because of the contemplative and spiritual significance inherent in this space.

The design of the complex is characterized by the idea of ​​shared memories. Using traditional art and ancient Persian architectural features such as underground gardens and underground rooms, a kind of return, a connection with Iran's rich architectural heritage have been established. These different elements also "show" something far superior to architecture, that is to say, shared conceptual and cultural elements that permeate Iranian society at all levels.

Architecturally innovative, thematically coherent and undeniably "practical", the Emam Reza complex is a unique space. Studio Kalout has achieved the challenge of creating a winning combination of form and functionality, in keeping with the main purpose of its activity, which is to be a place of worship.