Research

  • Unbuilt Iran: Modernism's Counterproposals
  • GRANTEE
    Parsa Khalili & Shima Mohajeri
    GRANT YEAR
    2016

Alvar Aalto, Museum of Modern Arts, sketch, 1969, Shiraz, Iran. Courtesy of Alvar Aalto Museum.

Unbuilt Iran focuses on unbuilt architectural proposals for Iran following the Shah's modernization efforts after the 1963 White Revolution. Commissions were awarded to several of Modernism’s most polemical figures including Alvar Aalto, Louis Kahn, James Stirling, and Kenzo Tange. This period of divergence within Iranian cultural and political space constituted a silent resistance to structures of power and their perceived forms of authority. In order to overcome the established critique that the projects of this era imposed a dialectical tension between modernity and tradition, this work will demonstrate how this false binary is invalidated by the efforts of a number of unbuilt commissions, which married historical formal and sociopolitical ideas of space and function to the rubric of modernist discourse. By combining traditional archival research with analytical-digital reconstructions, Unbuilt Iran provides an alternative framework to understand these works today, as well as reveals the hidden potential by which the modern project may be understood in a non-Western context.

Parsa Khalili studied at the Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Architecture de Versailles and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was awarded the Bronze Tablet, and the Yale School of Architecture, where he was awarded both the George Nelson Fellowship and William Wirt Winchester Fellowship. Khalili received the SOM Prize for Architecture (2009) and was chosen as one of Wallpaper Magazine's “Next Generation Designers” (2010). In 2010, he released Perspecta 43: Taboo, and in 2013, he was awarded the Plym Fellowship in Architecture. Previously, he was associate architect and director of visualization at Richard Meier and Partners. Currently, he is assistant professor (coteaching with Greg Lynn) at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, as well as cofounder of Aether Images, a VFX/CGI studio based in New York. He continues to develop his own academic practice, presenting his work in the United States, UK, Austria, and Iran.

Shima Mohajeri is lecturer at the University of Washington. She holds a PhD in the history and theory of architecture from Texas A&M University. She writes about the modern historiography of art and architecture, critical theory of space, and twentieth-century urbanism and architecture history in Iran. Mohajeri is currently working on her manuscript Architectures of Transversality, a project focused on the aesthetic and architectural works of Klee and Kahn, in connection with the crisis of modernity in Iran. Her recent publications include an article in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians and a book chapter for Routledge (2015). Her research has been supported by the Architectural League of New York, the Texas Architectural Foundation, and the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research. Formerly a lecturer in the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University and Azad University of Tehran, Mohajeri taught architectural design and lectured in art and architecture history courses.