One never gets tired of writing about Yazd; an ancient city sitting modestly by the central desert of Iran. Considering that the abovementioned desert has witnessed the highest temperature ever recorded on the planet, the fact that Yazd has survived this unmerciful climate since 550 BC makes this city even more remarkable. In 2017 the city was registered as a UNESCO world heritage site.
With a title like that, one can only imagine the number of historical sites Yazd can boast about; and extraordinary mosques are just one of them. Yazd has also historically been the center of Zoroastrianism. Thus, the city is home to numerous Zoroastrian fire-temples, some dating back 2000 years.
But what is quietly brilliant in Yazd are the old houses, homes of average people, the recent ones often dating two centuries back and some even standing for 700 years. As a constant battle against neglect and oblivion many young architecture firms and studios are working day and night to preserve these unknown houses from destruction, inexpert renovations and from the hands of time.
One of these firms is the Torab House Group. In describing themselves on their website they fondly quote Hafez, the most cherished Persian poet: “The ones whose gaze turns the earth into gold”. They are a group of young architects, craftspeople and restoration experts who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the old houses, especially in Yazd. To their clients they give design consultation to restore their old homes and can execute the restoration as well. More notably they also research and archive in the field of architecture in the city they love.
Torab House mission is to become a reference point for historical and local discourse of architecture through restoration and preservation of old houses and ancient fabrics of cities. It wishes to have a significant role in the development of life quality and the quality of the discourses in the urban sphere. It strives to create a space for a life based on friendly interaction on the inside and professional collaboration on the outside and to create a living experience for as many people as possible in the ancient fabric of the cities.
The project that is introduced here is titled “Hayat House”, literary meaning “The House of Life”. The original structure belongs to the Qajar era and possibly 200 years ago. In 2002 the house was bought by a family who spend a considerable amount in its renovation, only to sell it to the current owners in 2018 who approached Torab House for an expert view on restoration. They wanted the house to become their future home.
Torab House architects had to undo a lot of the previous restoration since it had been marked by an excess use of cement. The house was also vastly attacked by termites. Moreover, a massive leak of the urban pipelines had severely damaged the western rooms and the cellar. Just like most of the streets in Yazd the location of the Hayat House is hard to access by vehicles as cars cannot pass through the narrow passage. These issues prolonged the process of the restoration.
Yet it was a wait worthwhile. Through the process two separate cellars were discovered that had been filled out with cement and stones. They were restored as rooms for children and guests. In one of the cellars pieces of the original pond of the house were also found and it was decided to restore that element as well.
The house is built around a central courtyard as it is the tradition of Iranian architecture. In the proximity of deserts this design holds in the shades and cools down the air inside the courtyard. A platform is also seen where people sit on hot days, this platform originally has a characteristic of receiving the best ventilation in the houses such as this. The flower shaped pond and its small fountain along with the plants around them bring life and color to the architecture.
The inner walls are original and unique, and the architects decided to keep them as they are. The arches over the beautiful wooden doors are also reminiscent of a long history of arches in the Iranian architecture. Here it has an aesthetical function to make the entrances look elongated. The play of light on them during different hours of the day is simply mesmerizing.
The tiles used as flooring and the brickwork around the edges are the original material used in many houses of this era and hold a certain level of authenticity.
The inside rooms are lit by tall windows and where windows are not accessible like in the kitchen the light is led through light shafts and defused in the inside space.
Other than one altered wall and a new bathroom in one of the niches, the house was restored to its original plan. And it is a plan to be a place of solace for both residents and anyone who enters the house from the outside. As the new owners intend to use it as their residence it will also hold on to its original function of being a welcoming home.