Fereshteh Tabe & Amir Shouri

Hailing from Iran and now living and working in New York, Fereshteh Tabe and Amir Shouri are making their mark on the metropolis' architectural scene.

Tell us a little about your background

We were both born in Iran and we earned our undergrad and grad degrees from Azad University. My creative talent in graphic and art started to really show at high school and I continued my journey in the design industry with an architectural bachelor degree at Azad Tehran University. Three years earlier, in 1997 Amir was selected as the state’s top student in Mathematics and received his offer from Azad University to pursue a masters degree in architecture.

It was in 2004 when we had our first professional experience, working with nationally renowned architect, Ali Akbar Saremi (1943-2017) who was Louis Kahn’s student, on an international competition. Working with one of the most admirable architectural masters in Iran, we found that we inspire each other and collaborate, work and think together, closely paralleled each other to establish our careers.

We moved to Australia in 2006 for Amir’s PhD admission at Deakin University. In 2010, I joined the Melbourne School of Design (MSD). Working and studying at the University of Melbourne was an exceptional experience and I completed my masters degree with Honours. Being a student of Professor Philip Goad, Associate Professor Clare Newton, Professor Carolyn Whitzman, Stefan Mee /Nader Tehrani (joint studio between John Wardle and NADAAA) and Serg Biguzas, all helped me to start a new chapter in my life and career leading me (as an Australian/Iranian) to Columbia University in New York City. I completed a Master of Advanced Architectural Design at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in 2013. Amir and I got the chance to work with renowned names in architecture, such as Kenneth Frampton, Bernard Tschumi and David Benjamin.

We established TaShaLAb in 2012 as a think-thank hub for innovative idea production. During the last few years we’ve won several awards together.

We both believe that our achievements would have not existed without the support of the University of Melbourne, culminating in the advice that Professor Philip Goad generously gave to us before we departed to New York in 2012.

What are you working on at the moment?

We currently are working on several projects that will improve our architectural vision both in practice and theory. Most importantly, we are working on developing our project “Shades of Grey”, which received second prize from Mies van der Rohe Foundation in Barcelona, Spain and a Bronze Medal in American Architecture Prize, which will be installed in a prestigious art collection site.

We are working on several urban scale projects for New York City, where we explore opportunities to promote the “City-ness” of Manhattan in areas where less attention is given to the quality of urban space.

Which built environment professionals/organisations, or creative people, are inspiring you at the moment?

We’re both inspired by Minimalism, where meaningful purity without any unexpected necessity defines a pleasant and quality architectural space. This vision helps us to employ free sources of energy and material in our works. Accordingly, natural light, natural wind, good quality air and other natural measures are used to achieve architectural quality. We’re motivated by the vision of Mies van der Rohe, one of the great figures of 20th-century architecture. The structural thinking of John Fowler and Benjamin Baker sparks our interest in pushing boundaries. Besides being inspired by Gerrit Rietveld and Atelier 5 for their unique thinking on residential projects, we admire Jorn Utzon’s structural-architectural innovations and Alvar Aalto’s unquestionable competent use of light for public projects.

What has been your proudest career achievement to date?

It is really very hard for us to distinguish between our projects and say which one we most appreciate. Our project to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York, or the project for Mies van der Rohe foundation, or the proposal for LAGI (Land Art Generator Initiative) in corporation with the Danish Design Center and the European Union’s Climate Division, or our project for RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Competition in London, are all among projects that we are equally proud of thinking about them.

  • In 2013, our “Flood Energy” proposal was chosen as one of the winners in the MOMA PS1 Rockaway competition among more than 350 proposals from around the world.
  • In 2016, our “Shades of Grey” project was selected for second prize in the Fear of Columns competition at FundaciĆ³ Mies Van Der Rohe in Barcelona. Our project was one of 181 entries from 29 countries.
  • In October 2016, TaShALab received The American Architecture Prize in the cultural category for our “Shades of Grey” project. Amir was one of the main speakers at the annual American Architecture Prize Winners ceremony and received the TaShALab award.
  • In 2017, RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) has longlisted TaShALab’s entry “The Wall”.

Our ideas and projects have been exhibited and published, including:

  • MoMA PS1 Exhibition, VW Dome 2 in Rockaway | Summer 2013, New York, USA
  • ETSAB Exhibition, Barcelona School of Architecture | Summer 2016, Barcelona, Spain
  • Danish Design Center Exhibition | Spring 2014, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Bustler | Shades of Grey
  • Prestel | The Place of Tomorrow
  • AAP Winner Books | Shades of Gray
  • GSAPP Abstract | Design studio Advanced, V, VI
  • MSD MAP | Design studio C, D, E

What would be your dream project?

Our dream project is not from a specific typology. We both are so excited to work on challenges in the field of architecture. In our way of architectural thinking, we spend the majority of our process on thinking, debates, options, concepts and the theory of our works. What we call the “before production” stage is the most joyful phase of our work and consumes more than 85% of our common project schedules.

Your favourite place on campus here at the University of Melbourne?

We have a lot of memories of the University campus. The most memorable site was the South Lawn with its’ long body of shallow water which is very relaxing and refreshing and ties the sky and the ground together. The arcade of the Old Quadrangle on the way to the old MSD building was a joyful architectural space with rich classic ornaments beside a modern open landscape.

A memory of university life that has really stayed with you?

I can remember that in Serge’s studio (Studio E) I was working on my project model, which had a complex roof with double curvature structure shell and beams. I haven’t had any sleep within last 48 hours and the submission was due the next morning. It was around 3am in the morning when I was finalising the model and accidently, I made a very deep cut to my finger - I could see the bone. Accordingly, I was hospitalised and my finger received a few stitches. I still have the scar on my finger and when I look at it, I always remember those couple of days and nights of full work without any rest, and how despite the intensity we were all happy and motivated to do even more. My time at the University showed me that architecture is a rewarding field – I received a top mark in that studio and so much new knowledge. I also exhibited my work, a physical model, from that studio.

Best piece of advice for our current students?

I’ve learnt that I should live with architecture. Both Amir and I believe that architecture is not a profession that starts at 9am and ends at 6pm. It needs passion, continuity and a good plan. No matter where you are from, your skin colour or your gender, architecture is generous enough to make your dream come true. Never allow negative energies and voices around you to change your passion or prevent you from working harder. The University of Melbourne is a multicultural hub and it helped us pursue our goals – it will continue to help current and future students in similar ways.

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