Benetton’s decades-old tradition of pinching cultural mores at the tenderest spots is still healthy: Last week, they announced the winning design in a competition to design two Benetton buildings in Tehran. This sounds innocuous, but Benetton, which is popular in Iran, has sparked local condemnation over its Westernizing influence.
The “Designing in Teheran” competition appears to be a very savvy bit of cultural diplomacy. First announced in 2008, it sought designs for two separate mixed-use buildings which would include retail, offices and apartments, and “convey a message of modernity.” Presumably, if the buildings were widely heralded while bringing jobs to an infamously struggling economy, that would serve as quite an image boost to Benetton.
Here are the winning proposals, which were chosen from among over 800 entries:
For “Project A,” Grzegorz Witold Woronowicz covered the building in traditional Persian motifs, while the shape was based on ancient ziggurats, found throughout Iran and the Middle East, which are some of the most ancient buildings known to man. Inside the stores, Woronowicz proposed a bit of social engineering: Aiming to recreate the hubbub of traditional markets, rather than the pall of Western-style retail, he designed a rack system that moves all the clothes en masse–so to see what they want, shoppers would have to coordinate with others in the store. (Is it me, or does that sound annoying?)
“Project B” had to deal with a motley site, crowded with various buildings of different height. To blend in, Yana Radeva and Alexander Shinolo designed a scheme that combines volumes of various heights, with architecture details that subtly evoke Persian tiling patterns. Meanwhile, the building is designed to be open to the street, and crevasses that puncture the facade turn its interior into a public space: