[Jakarta, LTTW]. After thirty days of refraining from physical needs and self-indulging desires from dawn until dusk, senses of gratitude, solidarity, and empathy are heightened, and the soul is repurified. The day of victory arrives as the days of fasting in the month of Ramadan end, and Muslims around the world celebrates their triumph in defeating selfishness, greed, adulteration and unthankfulness.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is a sacred attempt – not simply a ritual technicality fulfillment – to reach and cultivate a living virtue. Just imagine how our lives would be if 1.8 billion Muslims in the world together could reach such level of human goodness; we would be living in heaven on earth indeed. While we could only imagine now, let’s not stop hoping that it would happen some day although we keep seeing the grimace of the world these days.
This year, the sacredness of Ramadan is, regretfully, stained by acts of war and terror. Doing these acts is already a despicable crime; doing it in Ramadan and in the name of Islam is certainly a humiliation to Islam, but then again, Islam is too great to be dwarfed by these twisted individuals.
To our Muslim brothers and sisters, we congratulate you on your victory, may God Almighty bless our deeds, and may we be purified once again.
Hassan Rouhani’s re-election as Iran’s president has rekindled hope for liberals in the country. During his first term, Iran began edging closer to the West, and his positions on both international and domestic affairs indicate further openness to its influence.
Current battleground issues in Iran include not just social and economic policy but also cultural concerns. Specifically, say architects and historians, Iran must take action to protect its modern architectural heritage before it’s too late.
Iran is known for its magnificent Persian design but, in the late 19th and 20th century, its capital Tehran saw renowned Western architects, including prominent modernists such as Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), build some of the city’s iconic structures.
Today, some have been razed and many more are in danger of demolition or collapse. Without protection, these buildings, which bear testament to Iran’s historic openness to the West, will be reduced to dust, beams and concrete blocks.
In Iran, the process was fuelled by increasing oil revenue, which helped finance massive new developments that would turn its capital into a modern metropolis. For these ambitious plans, the government hired Western architects, urban planners and other experts to come work in Tehran.
The American planner Victor Gruen devised the city’s 1968 master plan, conceiving of an expansive Tehran with commercial centres and residential neighbourhoods connected by highways.
This golden age of urban development also saw wealthy parts of Tehran bloom with privately financed construction.
That all changed in 1979. After the Iranian Revolution, Tehran turned inward, closing its gates to the West.
Villa Namazee is probably the most iconic of all the endangered contemporary structures. Designed by Milan-based architect and industrial designer Giovanni Ponti (1891-1979), one of the leading figures of Postwar Italian modernism (and the founder of Domus magazine), the villa has an open plan, a suspended roof and external openings protected by wide overhanging eaves.
Ponti, who built Italy’s first skyscraper, was known for his value of classical order, integrity of building materials, new production techniques and sensitivity to designing around both human need and environmental conditions.
In 1957, he was commissioned by the wealthy Namazee family to design a residence in the affluent Niavaran district to the north of Tehran’s foothills, in collaboration with Fausto Melotti (1901-1986) and Paolo De Poli (1905-1996). The house has sliding doors and internal windows that offer full cross-views, and it demonstrates the same inventive joie de vivre style as Ponti’s projects in Caracas, Venezuela (the Villa Planchart and the Villa Arreaza).
When the government removes historic structures such as the Villa Namazee from its national heritage list, it demonstrates a worrisome privileging of certain moments in its past over others that also have cultural value.
The destruction of such structures erases all signs of contemporary Tehran’s modernist heritage. Mid-century residences and office buildings are not only physical links to a time when Iran opened its doors to the West, they are also memories of the aristocrats of the past regime, and of radical poets and writers and intellectuals, whose ways of life are much less visible in Iran today.