First Passage of Oral History of Department of Architecture of Shahid Beheshti University

Shima Donyadar Rostami
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


According to Iranian Oral History Website, project of "Oral History of Department of Architecture and Urban Planning of National University of Iran (Shahid Beheshti)", attended by graduates and professors of architecture of Shahid Beheshti University and executives of this project, and was introduced in Farrokhi Yazdi Hall of Museum of the Qasr Prison on the afternoon, October 18, 2018.


Importance of Oral History in World Peace

Engineer Seyyed Alireza Ghahari, head of research and interview team of the project "Oral History of Department of Architecture and Urban Planning of National University of Iran (Shahid Beheshti)", stated in the session, " Iran's Architecture Prideworthies Foundation for advancement of its goals set up several institutes since about 2011; one of the institutions was " Oral History Institute of Architecture and Urban Engineering of Iran". The first step of the oral history project of architecture faculty, which is being unveiled today, is result of the Institute's activity."

He remarked on history of oral history, "History of oral history of nations refers to World War II. Since then, oral history or history of the subaltern was considered, and rather than superior history write and dictate it for us, it is said and written by the community members and thus remains in mind of the world. This contributes to world peace highly, because we would become aware of conditions of nations of the world, and as we know that in other nations too there are people like us to live.

Referring to the fact that since 70 years ago, oral history has come to universities in many parts of the world, he said, "While in Iran, we still cannot call it as an academic discipline. Of course, there are institutes and people in this field and record oral history. 17 projects in our institute are underway and I am director of these projects. Recording oral history of four universities, including universities of "science and industry", "Yazd University", "University of Tehran" and "National University" started simultaneously. Interviews are conducted with generations from different periods of all these universities. "The first passage" of project of "Oral History of Department of Architecture and Urban Engineering of National University of Iran (Shahid Beheshti)" will be unveiled today and interviews will be held also with other periods of the faculty. I hope that graduates from other periods would also have an active presence so that we can have a comprehensive oral history from this university.


The project background

Engineer Abdolreza Zokaei, the project executer, was another lecturer of the program. He explained about the project, "recording oral history of Department of Architecture and Urban Engineering of National University of Iran (Shahid Beheshti) was started about two years ago (2016), but really and practically it was started about four years ago. Although we did not have any experience in recording oral history, we were able to advance the project during this period. In these two years we enjoyed from companionship with the narrators."

Then a short video was showed about how the project was started. Thereby, in 2011, a group of active students in research efforts led by Professor Ali Azimi, and under supervision of Iran's Architecture Prideworthies Foundation, was preparing the third volume of book of "Thought of Contemporary Architects". Presence of engineer Abdolreza Zokaei in a 14 people group of contemporary architects made it possible to him to coordinate and archive all interviews. The fourth volume of the book was also on the agenda, and after joining Atlas Sobhani to the interviewer group, book launch of the book was also held in 2016. The Oral History Project of Department of Architecture and Urban Engineering of National University (Shahid Beheshti), directed by Alireza Ghahari, was defined in January 2017 and began on about March/April 2017. The initial activity in the project dates back to about 4 years ago. In 2014, "Oral History Conference of Department of Architecture and Urban Engineering of Shahid Beheshti University", attended by national architects, was held and analyzed in Farrokhi Yazdi Hall of Museum of the Qasr Prison. To continue the path, a list of 45 students and faculty members was arranged from various periods and all questions were designed in coordination with architecture features. As a result, interviews was began since March of 217 and after the fifth interview, aimed at using experiences of architecture protagonists, a session was held with members of Alumni Association of National Architects headed by Dr. Mohammad Riazi on June 7, 2017. Finally, 23 face-to-face interviews were conducted over a period of two years, which resulted in a 1500-minute interview collection and an archive of more than 300 video and written interviews. A summary of all interviews is also separately was compiled and recorded and is usable. A review of all interviews shows distinction of this college with other contemporary architecture colleges.


Expressing memories

Dr. Mohammad Riazi, Head of Alumni Association of National Architects also said, "If we are here now, it is for that features like Dr. Massoud Jahanara and Dr. Rasooli were among us. These professors taught us to be integrated. We were all together and support each other. Our today identity as national architects is because of effort of those professors. In any meeting, it is also quite obvious who is from the national university. This is product of the same education and identity.

He added, "Once we had gathered together in form of Alumni Association of National Architects and we were supposed to do a collective work, it was supposed instead of deciding build houses together or make a tour, make it our task to transfer identity of national architects to later generations. This is the biggest thing the association can do. My recommendation is to keep this identity and transfer to each other.

Then a part of the interviews was broadcast and after that Dr. Jahangir Darvish expressed memories from Faculty of Architecture and said, "The first day I came to National University, I saw all the guys of the faculty passed the course. I said, do they all pass always the course? They said, yes. I said so why do you take exam? They said, so what should we do? I said, write a list of what matters in a project and evaluate project of all students on this basis. They did this and 75 percent of the students failed. They called me and told solve the problem yourself. I also gathered all the kids in a day and said, today, each one goes in front of the blackboard and continue your work on the basis of items on the list and their score numeration, and give yourself a score. No one give you score. I sent first a student who objected more than others. He went in front of the board, and read and answered questions one by one. During answering questions, he asked me to let him to take off his coat. In order to become calm a little, I said him what you want to do, but read all questions and answer and give yourself a score. When he found that he could not give himself a pass score, he asked me let him to work on his project in summer and then present it."

He said, "After that, I began to enroll students and teaching them. 40 students registered. On the contrary of the past that everyone could do part of the other one, I told that we have 40 subjects and everyone can work on only one subject. In summary, we arrived from repetitive subjects to subjects like single company and all projects that they did not think to be a project. Then I also allowed them to take project to municipality and see where it can be implemented, so municipality gave them a land to build the project. Fortunately, many students were able to implement their first projects on the ground."

Expressing another memory, Darvish said, "At early days that I was paid, I told to assign my salary to buy books for the library. A sir who was originally from Isfahan was in accounting department and my money had been given to him to buy books. After several months, he said with his Esfahani dialect, "Sir, take your money. Not only they don't buy any book but also waste your cash. Now when I heard Shahid Beheshti University has a good library, I became very happy.

He told during narrating another memory, "I have another memory that is related to the very beginning. The National University program was supposed to be different from University of Tehran and did not repeat the same things. I invited head of Italian Polytechnic, who was also one of our assistants and recently had become head of the university, to come to Iran. I showed him the college and wrote a list of credits that should be taught. There were 40 credits that could not be taught because we didn't have professors for them; the theoretical credits and often building technic rather than the university project. Some of the credits were technology of building materials and mineralogy; because of all mines that have products that are used in building, they wanted these credits to be taught. Because I was busy, which I also had projects both in Italy and Iran, I saw that I could not come and teach in the way I would like. I did not come until many years later, someone called Mr. Pooyan called me and said, please come to Hotel Park tomorrow. There, he told me, I want you to come to the college council tomorrow. As I entered from behind entrance of the university, I saw about a thousand people had stood there. I also did greet some of them. I went to the council and listened to routine discussions of university professors. Pooyan, who was also head of the university, was sitting there. When the meeting ended, Mrs. Mirfenderesky told me that those who stood there intended attack here and expelled us. Mr. Pooyan brought you so they don't do this. I had a relationship with the guys that, while I was taskmaster, they liked to be around them. We had heavy projects and I could not free up my mind and address them fully. I hope you will be succeeded in your work of oral history, in which pursues a goal beyond what we read."

After him, engineer Abolhasan Miremadi, who contributed in preparing the interviews and method of interview in project of "Oral History of Department of Architecture and Urban Engineering of National University of Iran (Shahid Beheshti), said, "In general, Faculty of Architecture of National University was founded based on modern world system that was an experience of Professor Sheikholeslam. He was in Isfahan and before getting his diploma, he was also a theologue and a Mojtahed (Someone erudite about Islam), and he also had passed course of Ijtihad.

According to the member of Board of Directors of Iran's Architecture Prideworthies Foundation, Sheikholeslam implemented a combination of the old education system of Iran and system of American universities in Iran that National University was one of the first ones. This was carried out due to the fact that most of professors of the University were Italian and due to shortcomings observed in radical issues and was conducting in all universities around the world. It was thought that if base of science to be seen better in universities, then thinking would be created in minds of students. Instead of a teacher-student system, a new education system was founded. The same thing happened for universities of sciences such as Sharif and Shiraz universities.

Miremadi remarked, "The only point that we could criticize about the national university system was lack of attention to Iranian architecture. It depends on students themselves who offset gaps they thought they had. Like a group that through links with active organizations in the field, such as the Protection Organization of Antiquities (Cultural Heritage), paid attention to such issues. This disagreement was also at the beginning of establishment of University of Fine Arts. The deceased Pirnia told me he had been forced to leave the university due to writing an article about system of fine arts education of that time."

The university professor stated, "Our Iranian architecture system, which was traditional and not academic, could be identified and by modern method of that time and Orientalists who had studied it, could give a shinier atmosphere to the faculty. There were still in the world issues of dependence on past architecture and preserving modern old contexts, and postmodern issues were not still raised, and I saw through my cooperation with Mr. Mohsen Foroghi, Heydar Ghiai and Hooshang Seyhoun, that they also had reached these issues. Department of Architecture is one of milestones in history of Iranian architecture, and a study should be conducted about the faculty's educational system. The results are also to be considered."

Miremadi noted, "At the beginning of entering to the university, Professor Sheikholeslam made a lecture and said you do not think that you will surely graduate from this university. The education system had a kind of screening that if you had a problem during your education, you were stopped there. Sheikholeslam said we cannot inject you talent. We polish you, if there is something within you it would become apparent, if not, we cannot do anything.

Engineer Abbas Amini also said, "October 9, 1962 was the first day I officially came to the university. We were paid 3600 Rial. Mr. Sheikholeslam loved me so much and I was the only person who was paid extra 2000 Rial at that time; because I was constantly engaged with my students. In the fourth period that there were gentlemen Beikzadeh and Ibrahim Sina, students were very mischief. Form the third period, which were about 240 or 250 people, 100 remained. Because studying in the faculty was very hard, the rest went and could not continue. Our first professors were Dr. Bahman Paknia, Dr. Jahanara, Dr. Hajizadeh, Dr. Manouchehr Marjan, Dr. Houshang Marjan, Dr. Iraj Etesam and Mr. Shahsavari. Shahsavari was architect from the very beginning. I remember that the very first year he had come he had made a house for himself and one for his brother-in-law. Our students sometimes stayed in atelier until 1 a.m. That is, we made the university round-the-clock. One day, Mr. Sheikholeslam called me and said, "Last night, the atelier lights were on until the morning." I said, "The students work had been remained and they asked me to allow them continue their work, I also allowed them to do their work until the morning. The faculty was really stern about tasks. That is, the guys had drawn as much as that when they came out of college, they really became confused. Some students were afflicted to leg varicose due to sitting a long time upon their chairs. Students worked hard in this college."

At the end of the program, the first passage of project of "Oral History of Department of Architecture and Urban Engineering of National University of Iran (Shahid Beheshti)" was unveiled.

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