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Presence in Hormuz 2: A multitude of small-scale domes built with the superadobe technique by ZAV Architects

Project name:
Presence in Hormuz 2
Architecture firm:
ZAV Architects
Hormuz Island, Iran
Payman Barkhordari, Tahmineh Monzavi, Soroush Majidi, DJI
Principal architect:
Mohamadreza Ghodousi, Fatemeh Rezaei, Golnaz Bahrami, Soroush Majidi
Design team:
Sheila Ehsaei,Sara Jafari, Payman Barkhordari, Mohsen Safshekan, Kaveh Rashidzadeh, Hossein Panjehpour
Fereshteh Assadzadeh, Somayeh Saeidi, Arshia Hashemipour, Dorsa Tavakoli, Sara Fallahzadeh, Nasim Mosavar
Interior design:
Sara Jafari, Taraneh Behboud, Sara Nikkar, Mohsen Dehghan
Built area:
10300 m²
Site area:
6300 m²
Design year:
Completion year:
Civil engineer:
Farhad Beigi
Structural engineer:
Behrang Baniadam, Rouhi Touski
Environmental & MEP:
Pejman Moradian, Saeid Afsharian, Salman Rasouli, Roya Yazdizadeh
Maryam Yousefi, Morteza Adib
Tajang Light
Soroush Majidi, Payman Barkhordari, Sheila Ehsaei
Somayeh Saeidi
Tools used:
AutoCAD, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Dji Mavic Pro
Amir Tehrani Nobahari
Ehsan Rasoulof, Ali Rezvani
Residential › Multipurpose cultural residence › Housing

The Tehran-based architectural practice ZAV Architects has recently completed Presence in Hormuz 2, a community of Superadobe earthbag domes that empowers its residents.

Community empowerment via urban development, Hormuz Island, Iran

Hormuz is a formerly glorious historic port in the strategic strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, South of Iran, that controls the shipment of petroleum from the Middle East. The island has outstanding colorful surreal landscapes. Oddly, the local inhabitants of the beautiful, touristic and politically strategic island struggle economically, getting involved in illegal trafficking activities using their boats.

aerials view of the beach from above Majara top view image © DJI

Presence in Hormuz is a series of urban developments by a semi-public institution that hired ZAV Architects, in order to empower the local community of the island. Its second phase is a multipurpose cultural residence called Majara residence (meaning adventure) that ties together the lives of local people and visitors both culturally and economically.

rammed earth domes residence at Persian Gulf beach View of Majara Residence from upper path of the Soil Carpet Beach (South view)  image © Soroush Majidi

What’s to my benefit, what’s to the benefit of all?

In a country where the state struggles with political disputes outside its borders, every architectural project becomes a proposal for internal governing alternatives, asking basic questions: what are the limits of architecture and how can it suggest a political alternative for communal life? How can it attain social agency?

Architecture has the capacity be a mediator in the middle ground that converges the interests of different groups, from the state and investors to various classes and groups of people. Majara does so in bringing together the owners of land from the neighboring port of Bandar Abbas who organize an annual landart event in Hormuz, the investors from the capital city Tehran, and the local people of Hormuz as partners in the project.

colorful earth domed roof Adjacency of accommodation units in the lower level of the site  image © Thmineh monzavi

Under the economic distress of sanctions, increasing the GDP generates social change, which in this project is achieved by: 1. Building economically, to the benefit of the client. 2. Earmarking a bigger share of the budget to labor costs rather than expensive imported materials, to the benefit of the local population, empowering them by offering training for construction skills. 3. An adaptive and future- proof spatial scenario that can respond to unpredicted need, to the benefit of the client and the island. 4. Using materials and human resources from Iran, to reduce construction and transportation costs and increase the GDP, to the benefit of the whole country.

colorful beach residence next to desert mountains View from the north-west toward the residence  image © Thmineh monzavi

Infinite Nader Khalili’s

Presence in Hormuz is a continuous process aiming at building trust rather than architectural objects, in order to encourage the participation of local people and the inclusion of their interests in any intervention in the island.
The project is a multitude of small-scale domes built with the superadobe technique of Nader Khalili, the innovative and simple technique using rammed earth and sand. Domes are familiar structures in the region. Their small scale makes them compatible with the building capabilities of local craftsmen and unskilled workers, which have been prepared for this project with previous smaller projects. Today they are trained master superadobe masons, as if Nader Khalili multiplied exponentially.

superadobe domes from above Majara Resudence (top view) image © DJI

Swelling Earth

The infinite number of colorful particles, be they soil, sand, gravel or stone, pile up and form the rainbow topography of Hormuz island. In this project a carpet is woven with granular knots inspired by the particles that make up the ecotone of the island. The sandbags that create the spatial particles (aka domes) are filled with the dredging sand of the Hormuz dock, as if the earth has swollen to produce space for accommodation.

iranian architecture domes “Charta” a semi-open space in the south of the site, for a gradual transition from closed to open spaces  image © Payman Barkhordari 

dome shaped village Charta square: Entrance area of the accommodation section  image © Tahmineh Monzavi

a small kid walking in the residence “Taniya” named the residence her own way: “Tiny colored houses”  image © Payman Barkhordari

colorful domes rooftop View from the south-west, above the walkable rooftops image  © Payman Barkhordari

adobe stairs Stairways to the duplex accommodation units at Majara Residence  image © Soroush Majidi

sunlight hitting the domes Adjacency of accommodation units in the lower level of the site  image © Payman Barkhordari

organic shaped stairs Upper-level spatial unit colonies  image © Payman Barkhordari 

Solar dome (for sunbathing) Solar dome (for sunbathing)  image © Tahmineh Monzavi 

indoor furniture Hall inside a unit  image © Tahmineh Monzavi 

bedroom with local furniture Accommodation unit for four persons  image © Tahmineh Monzavi 

Locally produced furniture is used to furnish the spaces Locally produced furniture is used to furnish the spaces  image © Tahmineh Monzavi 

blue bed Interior space of Majara Residence priced 20 dollars a night  image © ahmineh Monzavi 

entrance hall with green plants Entrance hall  Image © Tahmineh Monzavi 

persian restaurant Visitors from different social classes in the restaurant of Majara Residence in coexistence  image © Tahmineh Monzavi 

sunlight enters the room through opening in the ceiling Charta as an interstice space between inside and outside  image © Tahmineh Monzavi 

Group photo of different stakeholders and participants in the projectGroup photo of different stakeholders and participants in the project  image © Tahmineh Monzavi 

small bird The building uses form and color to match itself to the natural landscape of the island. Since its completion, it has become the nest of bird flocks and home to local antelopes  mage © Payman Barkhordari

sea birds on the domes The building uses form and color to match itself to the natural landscape of the island. Since its completion, it has become the nest of bird flocks and home to local antelopes  image © Payman Barkhordari 

colorful rammed earth domes View to the eastern mountains  image © Tahmineh Monzavi 

View of Qeshm Island from rooftopView of Qeshm Island from rooftop  image © Tahmineh Monzavi 

night view of the residence Night view from east  image © Tahmineh Monzavi 

Diagram Diagram 

Diagram Diagram 

Diagram Diagram 

architecture Diagram Diagram 

Diagram Diagram 

Topographic Plan of Majara Residence in its ContextTopographic Plan of Majara Residence in its Context

Space usage Plan

Section A-ASection A-A

architectural section Section B-B

architectural section drawing Section C-C


Project Constructor                  Amir Tehrani Nobahari

Construction manager               Hormat Ghasemi

Construction vice-manager      Ramin Koulaghani, Amin Timas

Mechanical constructor             Javad Irandegani, Hamid Haji Posht-e-Gol

Floor constructor                        Davoud Etemadi

Fenestration builder                   Mehra Company

Interior plaster                            Gholamali Abbasi

Exterior plaster                           Esmaeil Salimi

Construction painter                  Farzad Moharami

Logistics                                     Nabiollah Timas, Borhan Pouyan, Ali Ghanbari,

Ayoub Owj Hormozi, Khalil Owj Hormozi, Abdolhamid Hormozi, Davoud Hormozi,   Ali Ghalandari Zehi, Farhad Shadan, Assad Gedri, Abbas Gedri, Ali Ghazi, Majid Bazmandeh, Ali Nasernia, Rahmat Ghalandari, Davoud Mohtaji, Morteza Mohtaji, Mohammad Vahedi, Mosayeb Zarei, Kambiz Naroui, Yasser Naroui, Nassir Narouii, Din Mohammad Naroui, Mojtaba Farhadi, Abbas Nasaji, Esfandiar Khorshidi, Khoubyar Khorshidi, Jalal Bameri, Ghassem Bameri, Enayat Karami, Reza Amirian, Eshgh Ali, Nabi Akrami, Mohammad Moallemi, Sajad Gholampour, Seyfollah Rasouli, Ali Golzari, Soheil Khedmatkari, Hosein Zohouri


About ZAV Architects

ZAV is a Tehran-based architectural practice active since 2007 which believes that architecture can redefine its capacities beyond the limits put in place by the building industry and is able to shift its operation field from that of a passive object to designing an entire process, apt to create significant impact through interacting with a larger field of forces, upgrading it to an actively engaged social and economic agent.

ZAV’s solution for attaining social optimum in a developing economy is incorporating architecture in the Gross Domestic Production. Our method is to create a bigger economic cake by tying together the benefit of the stakeholders to that of the larger society. Life and work in Middle East bring resilience towards recurring fundamental paradigm shifts. We seek a balance between hasty pragmatism and deterrent idealism, avoiding either the waste of resources or the loss of enthusiasm for taking action.

Some of their acclaimed projects are Presence in Hormuz, Farshfilm, Habitat for Orphan Girls, Nabshi Gallery, Cheshm Charan, and Pedari Guesthouse among others, which have won various national and international awards, including: multiple wins in the prominent Iranian architecture award of Memar, selected project of the New York Times in 2009, selected office from Iran in the London Festival of Architecture in 2014, two honorable mentions in Fritz Hoeger Award in 2017, winner of AR House awards, two wins in Architizer A+Awards in Community and Humanitarianism categories, award for Affordable Housing at WAN Awards in 2018, Cultural Building of the year at Dezeen Awards, Highly Commended Villa at WAF, shortlisted for Colour in Architecture at WAN Awards in 2019, Gold Medal (first prize) and Distinction (honorable mention) in Taipei International Design Award, and finalist in the Tamayouz Award for the architectural personality of the year in the Middle East in 2020.

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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Andrej Milovanovic -
Bravo ! That's what architecture is all about ! That's what architects (and investors) should think about ! Amazing !!! I would realy like to visit it...maybe I will in future... ZAV Architects, please continue with your work ! Best regards Andrej
Mohammadali -
Beautiful scenery and amazing architecture 😍 Be sure to visit here, I visited here and I will never forget...

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