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  Name   Nader Ardalan
  Born   March 9, 1939
  Nationality   Iran, USA
  Official website   www.ardalanassociates.com

On his return to his native Iran from the United States in 1964, Nader Ardalan influenced contemporary architecture in the country through his modernist designs and his concern with Islamic and regional expressions. These concerns have remained with him throughout his career and are reflected clearly in his work. Ardalan has been influential not only in his native country but also in the Middle East as an architect, urban planner, and theoretician.

Ardalan is a designer influenced by the internationalist agendas of the 1960s, although his interests are wide ranging. He was also among those who formulated the “Habitat Bill of Rights” presented to the United Nations Habitat Conference in Vancouver in 1971, where issues of inequity between East and West and those related to culture were considered. His architectural and planning work reflects particular attention to cultural and ecological considerations. In Iran, this was made evident through his understanding of the traditions and forms of the vernacular and of Iranian (Shiite) Islam, although manifested in a totally contemporary idiom.

His best-known work in Iran is the Center for Management Studies (1972, Tehran), now the University of Imam Sadegh in Tehran, which consists of vaulted buildings arranged formally around courtyards. The geometric forms and axial arrangements and the reinterpretation of the Persian “paradise garden” are revealed in the low concrete structures that sit comfortably in a landscape of gardens and fruit orchards. His Tehran Center for the Celebration of Music (1978) continues this exploration, with an effective use of water and natural light. Other innovative works in the country include the Behshar Home Offices (1974), now used as the Ministry of Industry, and Bu Ali Sina University (1978, with Georges Candilis) in Hamadan. He planned several new towns, such as Nuran (1978) near Isfahan, which was designed with the paradise garden as its central spine and having two symbolic heads or ends signifying the imaginative or spiritual and the thinking or material.

Ardalan coauthored a book with Lela Bakhtiar, The Sense of Unity: The Sufi T radition in Arch itecture, that in the last quarter of the 20th century has influenced many architects and scholars interested in contemporary “Islamic architecture.” In this book, the authors explore both the spiritual and the geometric aspects of Islamic architecture, presenting the metaphysical doctrines and symbolism within natural, geometric, and harmonic orders. Subsequently, Ardalan wrote a number of articles that built on these themes, and his preoccupation with what he calls “transcendent design” continued. The Sea Palace Paradise Garden (1994–97), a residence on the Persian Gulf coast of Abu Dhabi, uses the hasht bihisht, or octagonal “eight paradise,” concept and a mandala plan set in long axial gardens and courtyards.

Ardalan moved to the United States two years before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, first continuing his practice in Boston and then working there for Jung-Brannen International. His international work included the Preservation Plan (1984) for the Old City of Jerusalem and the Ankara Sheraton Hotel (1984). In the United States, his work became more concerned with corporate image making and new technologies, a departure from his earlier concerns. His prize-winning competition entry for the Citizens Plaza Office (1989), a triangular-shaped building with a tall entry atrium, is set against the background of a historic area in Providence, Rhode Island. This manifestation of the atrium as an organizing and monumental element is used subsequently in other projects, as in the 23-story, 54,000- squaremeter ADMA-OPCO and ADGAS Office Building (1994–96) in Abu Dhabi. By and large, in his later work the spiritual dimension of architecture has given way to more formal and economic factors in his corporate and commercial buildings.

Perhaps Ardalan was never truly satisfied working in the United States, for when the opportunity arose to move to Kuwait to work on major projects there, he did so. In 1994 he joined the Kuwait Engineers Office as its principal designer. His subsequent work all over the Middle East has focused on the theme of modernity and the integration of tradition interpreted through historic Islamic architecture and the desert vernacular of the region. This has led to a contemporary historicism, a kind of synthesis, akin to Postmodernism found in the West. A good example of this is the buildings along a 2.4- kilometer-long waterside development in Kuwait City. The project consists of a seafront esplanade with low-rise buildings and a large retail complex, the Al Sharq souk, completed in 1998. The complex with its plazas overlooks the sea and marina on one side and the city on the other and is conceived as a connector to the urban fabric. The design itself uses traditional elements, such as wind towers, shaded arcades, and mashribiya (wood screens), although much of the building is mechanically air conditioned and consists of large shopping-mall types of spaces that have been imported from contemporary commercial practices, including the idea of anchor stores on either end of the so-called souk. It is also noteworthy that at the ground-floor level, in “places one can touch,” the materials used evoke tradition—ceramic tiles, stone bases, and pilasters—whereas the upper levels are finished in gypsumreinforced concrete. The large interior spaces are finished in marble and other rich materials. Overall, the effect is a cross between a modern shopping mall and a traditional khan (the covered bazaar).

The struggle to reconcile his notions about culture and spirit with those of having to work in a competitive marketplace places Ardalan in a curious position. His current architectural projects carry within them the imagery of the past; this is also prevalent among many architects practicing in the region. This sense of fusion is embodied in his current work, but what distinguishes Ardalan’s work is his consistent fine sense of design and place making.



9 March 1939 Born in Tehran, Iran;

1956–61 Attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;

1961 bachelor of arts degree;

1962 studied at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, Massachusetts; master’s degree in architecture 1962;

Married (1) Laleh Bakhtiar (divorced 1976);

married (2) Shahla Ganji 1977:4 children.

1962–64 Worked for several firms in the United States including Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, San Francisco, California ;

1964– 66 head of the architecture and engineering section, the National Iranian Oil Company, Masjid-i-Sulaiman, Iran ;

1966–72 design partner, Abdul Aziz Farman-Farmaian and Associates, Tehran;

1969–73 Visiting critic in architecture, University of Tehran ;

1972–79 Founder and managing director, the Mandala Collaborative, Tehran ;

1976–80 Member, steering committee, Aga Khan Awards for Architecture ;

1977 visiting critic in architecture, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut;

1977–78 visiting critic in architecture, Harvard University Graduate School of Design ;

1977–91 president, Mandala International, Boston, Massachusetts;

1977–78 and 1981–83 visiting critic in urban design, Harvard University Graduate School of Design ;

1979–80 visiting critic in architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge ;

1980 member, Designing for Islamic Cultures Workshop, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology ;

from 1983 principal and senior vice president, Jung/Brannen International Limited, Boston;

1987 jury member, King Fahd Award in Architecture ;

1989 member, longrange planning committee, Senate of Massachusetts ;

1990–93 member, advisory board, WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston ;

1990–93 chairman Harvard University Graduate School of Design, New England Alumni ;

1993 jury member, State Landmark of Kuwait Competition .


Ardalan, Nader, “On Mosque Architecture,” in Architecture and Community: Build ing in the Islamic World, Today, edited by Renata Holod and Darl Rastorfer, Millerton, New York: Aperture, 1983

Ardalan, Nader, “Innovation and Tradition: New Design’s Relevance to Cultural Heritage,” Arts and the Islamic World, 23 (1997) Ardalan, Nader, “The Paradise Garden Paradigm,” in Consciousness and Reality, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1998

Badshah, Akhtar, “The Fusion of Nature and Culture in Design,” Mimar, 40 (September 1991) Eshraq, M., “Contemporary Iranian Architects,” Art and Architecture (June/November 1973) Kassarjian, J.B., and N.Ardalan, “The Iran Center for Management Studies, Tehran,” in Higher-Education Facil ities, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, 1982

“Kuwait City Waterfront Souk by Nader Ardalan (KEO),” The Architectural Review Middle East (Spring 1999) Pontoizeau, Yvette, “Architectures iraniennes,” L ‘architecture d ’aujourd ’hui (February 1978)










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