Corobrik: House Of 40 Knots Bridges Gap Between Tradition And Innovation

Image courtesy of Habibeh Madjdabadi and Alireza Mashhadimirza When asked to construct a medium-sized budget block of flats in Tehran, architects Habibeh Madjdabadi and Alireza Mashhadimirza, were faced with the challenge of utilising minimal resources to create an innovative, modern building that would attract young residents with average incomes. Since face brick was one of the cheapest building materials available in Tehran, and provided excellent insulation from the city’s hot and noisy environment, they decided to use this medium to demonstrate the creative possibilities they could achieve with the available budget.

Making use of locally-sourced face bricks and unskilled labour, Habibeh and Alireza fused the Iranian historic tradition of Persian carpets and building bricks into a five-storey building with a 1370 square meterage. Characterised by striking sets of different face brick ‘knots’, which bear a strong resemblance to the texture one would expect from a valuable carpet, The House of 40 Knots clearly reflects the architects’ desire to bridge the gap between tradition and innovation. Though achieving this harmonious ‘bridge’ required a little more thought than usual, considering the labourer’s lack of construction experience.

By studying the system of traditional weavers in carpet workshops, Habibeh and Alireza devised a simple way to guide their workers. They gave the supervisor simple instructions to read aloud to the labourers during each brick fixing. Just as one labourer reads out instructions while the other sits behind the scaffold and makes the braids at a carpet factory, so the supervisor directed while the workers placed raised, filler and hollow bricks in corresponding supporting bards between L profiles.

This Avant-garde approach negated the need for phase drawings and allowed the labourers to lay each brick row by row without any conceptual understanding of the façade’s intricate design. Through this modern interpretation of the ancient carpet weaving tradition, the architects have shown that instead of restricting architectural creativity, a common building material like face brick has as much creative potential as one’s imagination will allow!

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