Conversation with Dr. Babak Dariush

Villa Academic Development
Conversation with Dr. Babak Dariush

Villa Academic Development
Conversation with academic architects
Dr. Babak Dariush
• PhD in landscape architecture from the University of Geneva, Switzerland
• Member of the scientific council of Villa magazine
• Starting scientific, research and teaching activities since 2013
• President and faculty member of Sheikh Bahai Research Institute
• The owner of numerous chairs promoting criticism and theorizing in the fields of science, architecture and construction
• Secretary General of the Union of Non-Governmental Research Institutes of Iran
• First-grade engineer in supervision, design and construction since 2016
• Speech in several UNESCO cultural chairs and author in reputable media in Iran
• Author of 9 books in the fields of architecture and construction

In your opinion, what institution or organization is responsible for architecture in Iran?
It is necessary to state firstly that the Iranian society, in the encounter between tradition and modernity and under the influence of globalization attacks, is severely suffering from the disconnection between history and culture, and many Iranians have come to believe that the former cultural elements have lost their function in They have lost the current modern life. Built spaces also play an aggravating role in this confusion.
We live in a social situation where many experienced architects and urban planners are disappointed, and the capitalists gallop. But, unfortunately, some architects and urban planners also look forward to fame and name in this chaos to increase their salary.
I also believe that Iranian architecture, on the one hand, is in a paradox between science and profession; tradition and modernity, Iranian and Islamic identity; personal and national interest; is in the challenge. But, on the other hand, "architecture" does not have a specific guardian in Iran. From the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution to the Ministry of Housing, municipalities, universities, and many institutions and associations are responsible for the country's architecture. While none of them has a philosophy, strategy or mission, Or if they have, it conflicts with other institutions. In the university, the professors follow their individual view too.

Where is the position of the university and the academy field in this?
In this situation, we see that academics lack the self-confidence and motivation to change the situation. Because our theories and criteria come from the West, it is complicated to present and spread new ideas.
In this abnormal situation and with the lack of specific standards of architecture, some professionals and some academics who are less familiar with science have made the topic Tasteful and have turned to talking and presenting colourful and appealing presentations. As a result, they attract audiences and customers like celebrities.
If we add the following issues to the mentioned cases, we can better understand the extent of the problem.
Topics such as:
• Registration of the elements and ancient innovations of Iranians in architecture by the newly established neighbouring countries with the titles of Middle Eastern architecture, elements such as windcatcher.
• Lack of information and honours of Iranian architecture in internet reference pages such as Wikipedia and digital encyclopedias.
• Absence of even one theory in the field of environmental sciences that is based on Iranian architecture.
Therefore, it should be said that Iran's architecture today is undesirable; a point that many people and experts acknowledge. But this unfavourable situation is affected by issues and problems that are very important to explain and split, and on the other hand, raising issues with lower priority causes more essential issues to be ignored.
So Cognitive problem becomes very important here. Of course, every person can comment on this based on their knowledge and experience, but the comments must be in accordance with scientific principles and logic and without any Prejudice.

How do you see architectural issues in Iran today?
I can point to four essential issues from my point of view, which are perhaps less discussed:
1- In my opinion, based on definitions and functions, architecture is a whole and has many components that must be understood together. One of the main reasons for the ineffectiveness of architecture in Iran is the lack of a holistic approach to the environment, both by architects and critics. The dominant view of engineering or art and paying less attention to human and environmental issues can be the reason for this issue. In my opinion, an architect, to design and criticize and analyze, in addition to being an expert engineer, must know art and human and environmental issues well. And in this regard, I consider the reduction of the architecture diploma (continuous master's degree) to the bachelor of architecture as one of the reasons for the lack of comprehensive thinking of some younger architects.
2- Another issue is the lack of a correct definition of contemporary Iranian architecture, which has emerged under the influence of globalization and the arrival of modernity. This is while the past architecture of Iran is considered a reliable subject for us Iranians. Architecture that has been full of mystery and reality in its heart. It is these mysteries and their adaptation to reality that have made it still functional. But with the introduction of modernism followed by new western technologies, mainly from the second half of the Nasrid era in the Qajar period (1870), we see a change in how Iranians look at the environment, housing and settlements. In other words, we had different types of architecture before the modern period, but now we don't have any kind of architecture. That is, with the existing definitions and concepts, we are currently unable to define a particular architecture.
3- Another issue is the missing link of the "language of science" in architecture, which is the common language of architecture and other sciences. This problem has caused the science of architecture to not progress. In the current architecture, we do not have common concepts as accepted facts or hypotheses, and we inevitably rely on foreign theories.
4- Another important issue in Iran's contemporary architecture, in my opinion, is the lack of the planning in architecture, and this has caused architecture to not be connected to the neighbourhood and city network in terms of strategy, policy and action and not properly considered in the city and neighbourhood planning system.

What do you think should be done to improve the situation?
To take a step towards the desirability of Iranian architecture or the desirable relationship between man and the environment and nature, we need an "Iranian approach" to the environment. A view that is rooted in history and past centuries, and this means that you cannot create an Iranian idea by negating traditions. In a similar situation, the Japanese, as one of the most successful nations in spreading tradition in modern life, have been able to have something to say at the international level by believing in their traditions in science and art.
We need a new school of Iranian architecture that should have a holistic approach because it was in the past; in fact, it was a holistic approach to the man-environment that made Iranian architecture shine. A policy that pays attention to many things at the same time and gives its weight to each of the parameters according to necessity. In the absence of a specific definition of architecture and architectural elements and spaces, any comment about these issues will be incorrect or insufficient. Raising these issues will not conclude regardless of the lack of definitions and concepts. These definitions will be obtained in fundamental research, with a phenomenological discourse, in a free space for scientific criticism, with the observance of scientific ethics and from eclecticism and a result of tradition, science, profession and society.
These were on a theoretical level, but on a practical level, as an academic (which I hope I am worthy of), I believe that to reform architecture, we must take the side of the "people" between the "market" and the "people”. For this reason, we at the Sheikh Bahai Research Institute have launched a group called the construction industry. We intend to implement operational models of the industrial construction of housing, which are more qualitative and cheaper and faster.

You have opinions in science, research and theorizing; how will these help architecture?
First of all, theorizing is different from ideation. The person claiming to theorize should be very familiar with logic and science, and the theory should be able to generalize. But ideation is a mental or artistic creative process in problem-solving, and ideation does not require relative mastery of logic and science. This does not mean that our current architects and urban planners are supposed to become theoreticians.
But they must have sufficient knowledge, a certain amount of intelligence and a holistic view of architecture and the city, A completely objective and subjective opinion arising from their being Iranian. It is as if the Iranian architect of the past had the intelligence to know the weight of design and construction parameters in any place and to what extent they were related to each other.
But unfortunately, this architectural intelligence has been lost with the introduction of western concepts and technologies. Western theories are mainly produced by changing the weight of these parameters; in one, the environment has more weight; in another, humans and some technology.
As an architect, you work with the "Engineering system organization" why do you think some architects do not trust this national institution professionally?
"Engineering system organization" is the largest and most prestigious construction engineering professional organization in Iran, which was formed with the two goals of serving and organizing engineers and improving the quality of buildings. But apparently, the academic and professional function is not considered for it. As a result, there is no doubt that this institution has gone astray in its historical path, especially in recent years. But we have to see what the solution is? Withdraw ourselves? Or let's be effective?
I believe that academics should enter the field much more seriously so that the scientific quality of this institution will increase. I consider the withdrawal of many engineers and academics from the management levels of the engineering system organization as one of the important reasons for the irresponsibility and immorality of this institution. It seems that the non-participation of university academics and engineers has damaged its union function, and it has never been successful in terms of professional and academic function.

Does that mean you agree with the reforms in this system or do you believe in separating the architectural system from the engineering system?
"Art of Architecture” should be creative and flexible based on the organization of space based on various modern and historical patterns. Unfortunately, the dominant engineering thinking and "architectural engineering" criteria are rigid in this organization. In my opinion, there is no capacity to integrate architectural art and architectural engineering in this organization. One of the available solutions is to separate the engineering system from the architectural system.

And about your presence in Villa magazine?
I am very careful not to attend and become a member of non-reputable circles; in recent years, I have considered this more. But from what I saw and was sure, in addition to producing high-quality content, Villa magazine observes justice and professional ethics. And most importantly, between the market and the people, the side of the people stands. I am proud to be a member of this collection, and I hope to positively affect this series.

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