Hooba Design Group took a humble construction material in a completely new direction for Kohan Ceram’s Iranian headquarters, turning the building into a billboard for the brick manufacturing company’s expertise.
Tehran – Dutch architecture practice MVRDV made international headlines in 2016 with Crystal Houses: an Amsterdam retail façade made almost entirely of glass bricks. The concept turned what could have been a closed-off store exterior into one giant shop window, and a humble and ubiquitous construction material into something avant-garde in the process. But then the cracks started to appear – literally. After rumours of fractures in the bricks, MVRDV confirmed the issues were instead with the polymer, the adhesive used for the vertical joints. ‘There is not a single constructive risk,’ MVRDV’s Gijs Rikken told de Volkskrant. The client and architect were both apparently happy to write off the problem – which has since been solved – as part of the project’s extremely experimental nature.
But what about buildings – or cultures – looking for some of the benefits of MVRDV’s idea without the fully fledged transparency? In Tehran, local practice Hooba Design Group took the bricks-turned-windows concept in a more modest direction. The headquarters of Kohan Ceram join a new breed of brick buildings in Iran that challenge the routine running-bond configuration. Whereas some designers are opting for patterns that reference Iran’s heritage and others installing bricks at intervals to filter sunlight, Hooba Design Group worked with its client to redesign the building blocks themselves. It helps, of course, that the client is a brick manufacturing company. ‘This gave us a unique opportunity for a broad investigation of this material,’ says Hooba founder and managing partner Hooman Balazadeh.