Efforts to Save Cultural Icon

Villa Namazee is the only intact building made by Gio Ponti in the Middle East
The original interior (L) and exterior of Villa Namazee (Photo: Hamed Khosravi/Tehran Projects)The original interior (L) and exterior of Villa Namazee (Photo: Hamed Khosravi/Tehran Projects)
An online petition has garnered more than 4,200 signatures from around the world, which will be sent to UNESCO

The grandson of Gio Ponti, the renowned Italian architect, has called for help from the Committee for Conservation of Historical Houses in Tehran to save his grandfather’s work, Villa Namazee in northern Tehran, from destruction.

In an email to the committee, Matthew Licitra announced his intention to travel to Tehran and meet with the present owner of the house so as to buy at least several of the building’s accessories before its demolition, Ilna reported.

Built in the early 1960s in the wealthy Niavaran district, Villa Namazee forms part of an influential trio of properties by Ponti, along with Villa Planchart and Villa Arreaza, both in Caracas, Venezuela.

The villa, which is the only intact building by the Italian architect in the Middle East, is of great cultural significance to the city of Tehran. It was inscribed on the list of national heritage sites, but a recent decision by the Administrative Justice Court has given its current owner permission to delist it, paving the way for the construction of a 20-floor five-star hotel.

Being a structure of cultural value, the reconstruction required permission from ICHHTO, which was granted to the owner by Mohammad Hossein Farahani, a former head of Tehran’s ICHHTO office in 2013. The move was referred to as a mistake by his successors.

Requests by Farahani’s successor’s to revoke the permit were turned down since the law only requires buildings of pre-Zandieh era (1750-94) to be inscribed on the national list while Villa Namazee was constructed only 56 years ago.

Officials at ICHHTO and other relevant organizations are making efforts to stop the demolition.

“The destruction permit was a mistake; instead of implementing the order, the guilty party must be reprimanded,” said Rajabali Khosroabadi, current director of ICHHTO’s Tehran office.

“Besides, the head of a provincial ICHHTO office is not authorized to take decisions about inscribed heritage sites since it is a matter of national concern.”

  Judiciary, Mayor and UNESCO

In an act of defiance, the official told Mehr News Agency his office “would not approve” the hotel plans and may even “take recourse to regulations concerning the buffer (protected) zone of Rahnama House” to stop the construction.

Rahnama House is a historical Qajar-era structure in the vicinity of the villa.

Mohammad Hassan Talebian, ICHHTO’s cultural heritage deputy, has written a letter to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, demanding the municipality bring the villa under public ownership or exchange it for other properties so as to save the building.

Ahmad Hakimipour, the head of Cultural Heritage Committee of Tehran’s City Council, has also called on the mayor to prevent the building’s demolition because the villa contains parts of Tehran’s gardens that must not be damaged, as per the law.

Hakimipour insisted that guards be stationed near the building to monitor any wrongdoing.

“The judicial department of the organization has also been urged to contact the head of the judiciary and ask him to use his authority in this regard,” said Khosroabadi.

He stressed that regulations must make the destruction of such buildings costly for owners such that they are not allowed to reap financial benefits from their reconstruction.

The decision to destroy the iconic building has raised global response as well. An online petition to save the villa has been launched, garnering more than 4,200 signatures from Iran, Italy, France, Britain, the US and Lebanon.

A copy of the petition will be sent to UNESCO, the national school of fine arts in Paris and Italy’s polytechnic college.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints