These colorful dome houses were built to help empower the local community

Reimagining the way we give rise to our built environment is key to reducing its heavy environmental footprint. A compelling architectural project in Iran shines light on how this can be achieved by engaging local communities as well as using simple materials that have been around for millennia.

Developed by Tehran-based firm ZAV Architects, the project seeks to encourage “community empowerment via urban development” on Iran’s Hormuz Island. The development consists of a vibrant multipurpose cultural residence, whose candy-colored domes have been built out of ragged earth with the help of local construction workers.

The craftsmen were trained in a technique called superadobe, developed by Iranian-born architect Nader Khalili, which involves layering long fabric bags filled with earth and other organic materials like straw to form a compression structure.

According to the architects, the idea was to help boost the local economy and provide alternative options to locals: “Hormuz is a formerly glorious historic port in the strategic Strait of Hormuz… that controls the shipment of petroleum from the Middle East. The island has outstanding colorful surreal landscapes. Oddly, the local inhabitants of the beautiful, touristic and politically strategic island struggle economically, getting involved in illegal trafficking activities using their boats.”

The dome houses take on organic shapes and interact with each other in a variety of ways to create clustered structures, whose vibrant candy-like colors breathe new life in a scorched landscape. In between these clusters, walkways and other connective spaces make room for gathering, playing and resting.

The inside features colorful interiors which are a continuation of the outside appearance. The inherent roundness of the spaces are also a refreshing alternative to the angularity of typical buildings.

As the architects explain, the aim was to choose an approach that benefitted the island’s residents as much as possible, since international sanctions have affected the island and the whole country for many years: “[By] earmarking a bigger share of the budget to labor costs rather than expensive imported materials, [it benefits] the local population, empowering them by offering training for construction skills.”

Next, the architects plan to continue on to the next phase of this award-winning project by building a “multipurpose cultural residence” that will revive the local economy by bringing together the lives of local people and visitors in a shared cultural space.

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