Argo Factory Art Museum and Cultural Center in Tehran opens
Tehran’s Argo Factory complex reinvents brewery architecture for the arts
Ahmadreza Schricker Architecture North’s (ASA North) Argo Factory Contemporary Art Museum and Cultural Center, housed in a revamped brewery, becomes Tehran’s first new arts hub in decades
The Argo Factory Museum of Contemporary Art and Cultural Center, the first center of its kind to be built in Tehran for over 40 years, has been completed and is expected to be launched in 2020. Yet, due to the pandemic and local political circumstances in Iran, only now can the team behind it, Iranian-Austrian architect Ahmadreza Schricker, founder of ASA North, and his client, the Pejman Foundation, celebrate its opening.
The project is the ambitious conversion of the 1920s Argo factory – a 480 m² brewery in downtown Tehran – into a 1,850 m² arts house. The stately and beautifully monolithic complex of buildings now spans six gallery rooms, an auditorium, library, artist residency and event spaces, private studio, retail and VIP viewing deck – there’s even a reissued non-alcoholic Argo draft beer bar.
The project was part restoration, part new construction, as the architecture team, including collaborating architects Hobgood Architects (led by Patrick Hobgood) who were involved in the design phase of the project, had to balance the rope steep between old and new. The existing foundations had to be reinforced (completely rebuilt in places) and the brick materiality of the whole had to be maintained. At the same time, five new pitched concrete roof structures now top the center and a new 70m² concrete clad structure houses the artists’ residence areas. “I don’t worship Argo, with its many industrial architectural twins around the world, I love Argo. In 2017 the factory roofs were missing and as a sign of respect for the old we placed five new floating roofs on top of the remaining structure. Natural light streams in from the articulated separation between old and new, and the newly inserted structural foundation allows the floating architectural “hats” to give another character to an already strong personality,” explains Schricker.
The bricks of the original structure have been recycled and reused where possible, although in places where the walls are completely new, a different type of mortar has been used to subtly emphasize the difference between the time periods at through the skin of the building. Inside, the exposed brick character of the structure continues in all its glory, providing a tactile yet sufficiently neutral and versatile backdrop for displaying artwork. Meanwhile, a flowing and dramatic 12m long staircase becomes a centerpiece of the ground floor and upper floors of the gallery, created without any intermediate supports in a cast-in-place concrete engineering feat.
Schricker adds: “Similar to the roof of the bazaar in Isfahan, the new concrete floating roofs play several roles: as deep skylights, they keep the heat in while filtering light for the galleries and they also dance with the roofs. downtown neighbors. Tehran. Finally, as a symbolic nod or “trick of the hat”, they salute the city as it welcomes back Argo.
Previously with OMA/AMO in New York and Herzog & de Meuron in Basel, Schricker works at various scales, internationally, from his New York base and his two-pronged practice – ASA North is an architectural practice more “traditional”, while its sister studio, ASA South, operates in the virtual realm. Ongoing work in the Asia region by ASA North includes the first newly built virtual museum for art collector Mohammed Afkhami in Dubai, and the master plan for a 7,800m² cultural center around Saba Manouchehri’s textile collection. in the city of Kashan, Iran. §