Project dubbed as ‘the third symbol of Tehran’ earns international recognition for architect Leila Araghian.
As an architecture student, Leila Araghian, 31, recalls roaming the sycamore-lined boulevards of her hometown, Tehran, looking for the next adventure. Once, she and a friend were passing by a bridge along Zafar Street, when they spotted a brown leather sofa outside a building.
So they got an idea, and dragged the sofa onto a small bridge, one of many that dot the creeks running through Tehran. As they sat there watching the water flow beneath them, they thought how much better it would be, if people could actually hang out on bridges, rather than just cross over them.
That friend, Alireza Behzadi, would become Araghian’s collaborator in her most important project so far, the Pol-e-Tabiat, or Nature Bridge, which opened in late 2014, and is now being called “the third symbol of Tehran“. The pedestrian bridge has won three awards in Iran.
And on Tuesday, it picked its first international recognition, winning a 2015 A Popular Choice prize in highways and bridges category, from a New York-based architectural organisation, Architizer. A panel of international jurors also nominated it as one of the top five finalists in architecture and engineering category.
Araghian recalled that late afternoon stroll with Behzadi many years ago, as she explained the inspiration behind her project, which she designed when she was only 26.
“Usually, bridges are designed in a straight line. And that straight line will produce a one point perspective that will tell you to just go. But we want to keep people on the bridge,” she told Al Jazeera.
“The bridge is not just a structure to connect from one point to another, but also a place to stay and enjoy.”
Soaring 270m across Modarres Highway, Pol-e-Tabiat, which connects two parks in the northern district of Iran’s capital, reflects her aspirations about Iranian architecture, Araghian said.
Mohammad Mohammadzadeh, an architect, author and critic, told Al Jazeera that projects like Araghian’s “reveal a huge capacity in the emerging generation of architects, who have been willing to form a progressive trend in Iran”.
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