In conversation. SHARE Architecture Awards: Kamran Afshar Naderi

In the open conversation we are joined by Kamran Afshar Naderi, Iranian-Italian Artist, Designer, Architect; Founder of Memar Magazine & Awards — a valuable part of the jury as chair of the Category comprising Residential Single Use, Multi-Unit Residential, Restaurants&Bars, Hotels. Discover his insightful responses below and visit the SHARE Architecture Awards dedicated page to find more about the competition.

SHARE-ARCHITECTS: What is the combination of qualities that you look for in a project, when judging/analysing, but also when being yourself involved in the process of designing?

Kamran Afshar Naderi: In the realm of architectural “judgement” and “design”, a subtle difference of perspectives emerges, shaping the criteria for “evaluation” and “creation”. The anonymity often accompanying judgement can obscure the architect’s bigger narrative within the broader context of his intended professional research.
On the other hand, during the design phase, architects immerse themselves in a process of expression and experimentation, bringing their creative vision to life. This personal journey of discovery and realisation contrasts with the external, analytical evaluation required during judgement.
When assessing projects, a distinction arises between good products and brilliant ideas. While good architecture meets various qualitative parameters, true masterpieces transcend mere functionality and beauty, contributing significantly to architectural culture and innovation.
In a jury setting, my first aspiration is to encounter projects that push disciplinary boundaries and serve as cultural benchmarks. In the second place, I try to celebrate professional achievements seen in good projects.

S-A: What are the main challenges that the architect (in general) has to take on in today’s architectural scene? What are the challenges that you yourself have to handle in your own practice?

K.A.N.: The main challenges architects face today include sustainable design, urbanisation, space limitations, cultural relevance, modernization, adapting to new materials and technologies, conforming to the digital age, and responding to fast-paced societal needs. The critical aspect lies not only in overwhelming these challenges but also in inventing architecturally valued solutions to address them creatively. My practice is not profession-oriented. I mainly follow my curiosities and interests. Apart from architecture, I dedicated myself to writing, teaching, designing furniture, and making sculptures. My articles and books embrace criticism and architectural history. Paradoxically, in my writing, I look for maximum simplicity but my art and design works are inclined to complexity.

S-A: What are the essential three characteristics that any” thoughtful” project should have embedded?
The three essential characteristics that any “thoughtful” project should have embedded are:

1. Reaching the assigned goals: The project brief outlines the specific goals and objectives, but a thoughtful project should go beyond just meeting those basic requirements. Architects have a responsibility to consider higher-order impacts on the environment, society, and culture.
2. Being responsive to the characteristics of the context:
My understanding of the context is not limited to the physical aspects of the surroundings and it includes meanings, and experienced memories associated with it. I believe an architect should grasp and strategically incorporate the most relevant contextual factors into his projects.
3. Idea-based approach to design:
A thoughtful project is not just about implementing generic solutions, but rather identifying the unique conceptual or design-oriented aspects of the problem and developing innovative formal solutions and addressing them skillfully.
By embedding these three characteristics – reaching assigned goals, responding to the context, and taking an idea-based design approach – a project can be considered truly “thoughtful” and impactful.

S-A: How would you describe the evolution of the architectural field in Eastern Europe in the last 30 years?
K.A.N.: The evolution of architecture in Eastern Europe over the last 30 years has transitioned from Soviet-era modernism to experimental, individualistic, and contextual design approaches. This shift reflects integration into the global design community, leading to the adoption of Western architectural influences. Despite initial challenges, a new generation of architects has emerged, blending local and global inspirations to innovate and shape the architectural landscape in Eastern Europe.