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Cultural and religious complex in Iran features roof shaped like interlocking fingers

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Dan Howarth


This community center and mosque in Tehran by Kalout Architecture Studio, which won a 2016 Architizer A+Award, is designed to look like linking hands. The Imam Reza Cultural and Religious Complex is located in the cultural district of the Iranian capital, which has seen a recent boom in contemporary architecture thanks to the lifting of crippling economic sanctions across the country. 

The building houses a mosque, an art gallery, a bookstore coffee shop, an amphitheatre and an IT center under one roof. This roof is designed to look like interlocking fingers "as a symbol of unity and social  cohesion". Kalout  Architecture Studio organised the various functions into stone-clad wings around the central "dome" that arches over the shabestan – an underground space typically found in mosques, houses and schools in Iran. 


"The main form of the shabestan, with the grandeur of a religious space, provides the opportunity of a unique experience to fulfill the immemorial ambition to connect with the creator and feel the symbolic form of the dome," said the architects. "Following this main form, the side wings of the building with the supplementary functions rise from and rest on the ground to create an innovative form visually." 

The dome is formed from handmade glass engraved with the many names of god, while bricks are laid to create an intricate repetitive pattern across the main walls. The two materials are paired to symbolise "ascending movement from earth to light". 

Other elements borrowed from traditional Persian architecture include a sunken courtyard with a small pool, and a cedar statue that represents "constancy, life and freedom". The Imam Reza Cultural and Religious Complex won in the Religious Buildings and Memorials at the 2016 A+Awards.