Argo Contemporary Art Museum & Cultural Centre
Tehran, Iran

Despite decades of abandonment having reduced it to a roofless shell, the Argo Factory – a former brewery, over a century old – had intrigued Hamidreza Pejman for years. Hence his choice of it as home to Tehran’s first independent contemporary art museum, as well as to the Pejman Foundation, which seeks to create opportunities for Iranian artists to be visible on and exchange with the global art scene.

ASA North’s designs for the adaptive reuse project retained the full integrity and raw beauty of the historic building by adding a new, underpinned, self-supporting structure within it, based around steel columns inset from the existing walls. Great care was taken to ensure that new interventions are distinguishable from original fabric: reinstated brickwork has deep-set pointing, and the new, soaring white concrete staircase, metal lift and brass public bar offer a contrast with the old brewery’s brick rectilinearity through both their materials and their curved forms. False ceilings echoing some of the original brick vaults are again inset from the walls for clarity.

Five striated, pitched concrete roof structures, whose shapes are an asymmetrical reinterpretation of nearby vernacular roofs, appear to float above the building – a “tip of the hat” symbolising its return to life. They act as deep, insulating skylights, filtering light through the gap around the tops of the walls and into the gallery spaces.

The entrance courtyard has three glass panels in its floor offering views down into former brewing pools that are now archive rooms and service spaces. Around this, with generous openings to connect it to the street, the main block contains a public bar/café and shop; a series of spaces of different heights and textures for exhibitions, talks and films; a rooftop terrace; and the Pejman Foundation offices. In a narrow detached building to the rear, visibly new with its curved concrete structure poured in layers of varying shades of grey, are a kitchen for the bar/café with an artist residence above.

The project has reinvigorated this historic neighbourhood and attracts not only art-lovers but also members of the general public curious to discover what lies within.

Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture

Tehran, Iran
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Associated Names
Associated Collections
Occupancy 2020
Site area: 750 m²; Built area: 1,890 m²
Variant Names
Argo Contemporary Art Museum & Cultural Centre
Building Usages
Aga Khan Award for Architecture Shortlisted Project