An old prison in the heart of Tehran has been converted into an enormously popular tourist attraction. The Qasr prison is one of Iran’s oldest penitentiary institutions that was decommissioned in 2008; soon after, the municipality commissioned Experimental Branch of Architecture (EBA) to give it a surprising facelift.
Lead architect Arash Mozafari consulted with conservation expert Amir Arvand to transform the old and rather dilapidated prison building into the contemporary Qasr Garden Museum.
Originally designed and built in 1790 by Russian architect Markov, the Qasr prison had 192 rooms for 700 prisoners. No fewer than 100 of those cells were solitary, according to the local news site Payvand.
EBA retained most of the existing structure, and then added a new glass facade, landscaping and other touches to give the historic building a fresh, contemporary aesthetic that is filled with light.
In addition to a handful of galleries, the new cultural complex boasts a library, amphitheater and gorgeous gardens that create a calm and tranquil atmosphere at a space that used to cause fear and trembling in the hearts of political dissenters.
Scores of curious Iranians flocked to the site after its opening with up to 125,000 visitors during the first twelve days. One day 6,000 tourists filled the halls of the newly minted destination.
Writing for Arch Daily, EBA says that the firm’s groundbreaking renovation project has uplifted the local economy, and that people are free to view the beautiful space despite the politics du jour.
“Regarding to the exploitation of Tehran’s cultural spaces, it seems that this place won’t confront a serious limitation on the amount of visitors,” according to the designer’s brief.
“So, these kinds of investments on saving historic sites seem also reasonable in nationally scale.”
Images via © Ali Daghigh