Habibeh Madjdabadi Architecture Studio

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Female owned

Tehran, IR


Approximation House

This narrow multistory house is located on the west side of Tehran, where the city has found its way between the steep slopes of ALBORZ chain on the north and the salty desert on the south. The building is positioned on a narrow plot (w=8.5) and is confined on two sides to other constructions. A small setback from the street provides a small space for the front yard.

The house consists of two duplex apartments for a father and his daughter. There is also a flat dedicated to the guesthouse. Although the apartments are rather small, the interior has all the qualities of a three-dimensional space: it is articulated in section and can be discovered from several points of view in the space. The skylights, introduce the natural light and the sky scene into the house.

The term approximation stands for special design approach, which aims to humanize the entire process of creation, from design to execution, by valorizing the imperfectness of hand made against perfectness of the industry wise processes and products.

I am coming from a country with a long history of craftsmanship. As an Iranian architect I prefer to consider the potential of workers in my projects. In Iran the hourly wage of unskilled workers is not so high and not higher than using advanced technology. So, I preferred to let the workers cut and shape wood pieces with approximated sizes and organic shape. 

in the “Approximation House”, the workers expressed themselves through personalizing their way of shaping thousands of pieces of wood:

the main material of the exterior. In this urban context, due to the form of the plot and to the applicable building codes, frontage of the building was the only architectural element visible from the street. Here, the façade is much more than a decorated shed; it is a penetrable green micro-ecosystem, which connects the courtyard to the roof and extends on the opposite side of the building.

The function of movable wooden texture is to mitigate the strong sunlight of Tehran and to create a play of light and shadow in interior space. It also provides privacy for the building’s inhabitants. This intricate structure consists of 3000 small wooden round battens, which were individually formed and shaped by the workers according to some freedom. In the end, every piece of wood became a unique handmade statue. When the project was finished, it seemed a handmade artwork belonging to all the people participating in the construction teamwork process.

Wood in nature is alive, but in construction becomes a dead material. In order to remove such a defect, I tried to create an effect of aliveness in façade. The wooden parts, each one shaped differently, were inspired by nature. In fact, the natural elements, even from the same family, are never exactly the same. On the other hand, the façade is not immobile. Like trees and plants, the facade parts move and provide different effects of light and shadow and it changes density.


In the city where the project is born, the urban houses are usually mid or high-rise apartment condominiums, facades are flat and made of brick, stone, glass or synthetic materials, the articles used in construction are industry-wise elements, put together according to the taste of the market and green is not considered as a building material. Consequently, this project wanted to go in a different direction. It tried not be conformist or conciliatory, but critical.  Here, a lot of fantasy and effort was expended for sidestepping the restricted urban regulations and wining over the client regarding my unusual architectural choices versus the dominant housing styles and aesthetics.

As an alternative and critical solution, the project in question avoids the typical building zoning in separate flats, and creates an interior space that develops vertically; it makes extensive use of craftsmanship, while avoiding any historicist aesthetics, instead of typical massive products for facade, it makes use of hand shaped wood and green in a façade, it doesn’t have any flat surface, but a tridimensional penetrable external envelope; it has no explicit reference to the traditional architecture, but respects the core concepts of the local traditions.

The project respected the climate conditions and culture, pleased the neighborhood and has satisfied the client needs and lifestyle.

Title of the project: Approximation House

Architectural Firm / Designer: Habibeh Madjdabadi Architecture Studio

Client: Dr.Fariborz jahantighi

Location: Tehran

Construction finished 2020

Architecture and Design : Habibeh Madjdabadi

Engineering: Vahid gharekhani,Hoofar esmaeeli, Nina Amooshahi

Contractor : Aref Khodaei, Vafa Eshraghi

Size and total area : 1500m2

Image credits: Habibeh Madjdabadi Architecture Studio

Faran Pirjamali, Mobina Dorri

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Status: Built
Location: Tehran, IR
Firm Role: Principal Architect/Designer