Maria Cook The Ottawa Citizen
Friday, May 23, 2003 CREDIT: Brigitte Bouvier, The Ottawa Citizen
A star-shaped tile fountain sits in the middle of the Persian Room, spurting water over a light that constantly changes colour.
The Iranian ambassador's residence is designed to house the ambassador and his family, a function it performs luxuriously. But the domed mansion in Rockcliffe does more than that; it employs its distinctive architecture to present a positive image of Iran.
"The Western world has focused on the politics of Iran, forgetting -- and in a way ignoring -- the other side, the beauty side of Iran," says Seyed Mohammad Mousavi, the British-educated Iranian ambassador to Canada.
"We use this residence as a kind of tool to disclose the beauty," says Mr. Mousavi, 42. "This is not a denial of its politics but it gives a balance. The building has a message; the beauty of its architecture is rooted in its heritage, culture and civilization."
Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979. Most people know Iran through carpets, caviar, its war with its neighbour Iraq, or as one of the world's major oil-producing nations.
The Web site of Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs notes that Canada has diplomatic and trade relations with Iran, but it also has concerns "about Iranian government opposition to the Middle East peace process, its support of terrorism, its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, (and) its human rights record."
U.S. President George Bush has named Iran as part of "an axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea. Yet, Iran has one of the richest and oldest cultures in the world.
Politics aside, Doors Open offers a rare opportunity (tomorrow and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to visit this residence, located at 524 Acacia Ave. in Rockcliffe Park.
The 20,000-square-foot house was built in 1999 and replaced a residence in poor condition on the same site. It was designed by Ottawa architect Barry Hobin. The interior designers were Ottawa's Gansen Lindsay Design Consultants.
The previous ambassador, Seyed Mohammad Hossein Adeli and his wife Khadijeh, worked closely with the designers and supervised the construction. Before the project began, Mr. Hobin travelled to Tehran and Isfahan, the capital of Persian architecture.
The house, on a large treed property, is immediately recognizable for its band of bright green and blue Iranian tile that winds around the taupe brick building. There is a dome over the entrance, and the house has dozens of windows.
It is intended to blend contemporary Canadian design with touches of traditional Iranian architecture.
"We didn't want to change the culture of this locality," says Mr. Mousavi, who estimates the value of the house at around $9 million. "We wanted something that would go with the local architecture."
Mr. Mousavi and his wife, Heshmat Mousavi, who has a doctorate in sociology and has taught women's issues at university in Iran, discuss the house over cups of tea in the Persian Room.
A star-shaped tile fountain occupies the centre of the room, spurting water over a light that constantly changes colour -- pink, blue, green, white. Padded benches upholstered with red Persian weaving line the room. A series of concave, mirrored designs, a feature known as "Mogharnass" run around the tops of the walls.
This is the Mousavis favourite room. "When you listen to the water, it brings you peace of mind," says Mrs. Mousavi, dressed in a long white loose dress and a green and gold headscarf.
Polished granite flooring -- some of it rare rock imported from Iran -- runs through the entry, foyer and into the main hall. Intricately patterned Persian rugs, in silk and in wool, decorate rooms throughout.
The main hall is an octagonal room in the centre of the building. It is topped by a dome and opens into the garden. Its vaulted ceiling reaches two storeys. On the floor, 16 different kinds of stone form a pattern. Along the upper dome's edges is a feature known as "mirror working," in which tiny triangular mirrors fit together to form a sparkling border.
The house is restrained in its use of Iranian architectural elements, such as mirrors and tiles, which would feature more prominently in buildings in Iran.
"It's user-friendly," says Mr. Mousavi. "When you enter into it, you don't feel very isolated from Canadian modern culture, and not very isolated from Iranian culture. You feel a mixture. An atmosphere of harmony."
The living room, about 12 metres in length, is used for receptions. It is furnished with four settings of furniture, two of them imported from Iran. A circular sunroom at one end overlooks the pool and garden.
Separation between private and public spaces is a key feature of the design; three sections include a guest house, the official function rooms, and the ambassador's apartment.
Sometimes visitors want to learn more about Iran.
"This is not just a setup," says Mr. Mousavi. "When you look at the carpet, there's culture behind it. It's a humane element which connects."
A list of participating buildings was distributed in yesterday's Citizen. Or go to www.ottawa.ca .
Islamic Republics Attempt to Build a Rosy Image of Iran in ottawa
Dear Reader: Do you know what kind of a house you are entering into?
The official residence of the Iranian Ambassador Mr. Mohammad A. Mousavi, is one of the most expensive residences in Canada. The value of the house is estimated to be $9 million dollars (Ottawa Citizen), it can be seen that a great amount of money and effort has been put into creating this home for the representatives of the Islamic Regime of Iran.
Dear freedom lover, while you look through this magnificent work of art we urge you to keep a few details in your mind. Please take into consideration the economic situation in Iran, where 20% of people live in absolute poverty (International Labor Organization ILO), and more then 50% of the population lives below the poverty level. The rate of unemployment is close to 20% (ILO) and the rate of youth unemployment is 60% (IRNA). People of Iran are living in great poverty, not knowing how to even meet their and the needs of their families.
Poverty is the main reason why prostitution and drug trafficking has become so widespread in Iran. According to Mr. Mohammad Ali Zan who is the head of Tehran cultural and artistic affairs there has been 635% increase in prostitution among high school children since 1998. Rate of suicide has also exceeded 109%. (BBC News) While innocent people are selling their bodies or even in desperate situation committing suicide, the IRI sees it appropriate to spend $9 million on the house of its representatives.
Iran is a rich country with the second largest gas reserves in the world and the second largest OPEC producer (UNDP) yet the people of Iran are living in great suffering and poverty.
Dear freedom lover, as you go through the house please remember the innocent girls who sell their bodies to buy school books or the mother who kills herself and her children because she has no way of supporting them. These are not sad stories, but grim realities for the people of Iran. While people in Iran are suffering in such grave ways, the Islamic Regime finds the money to sponsor terrorist organizations such az al-qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas.
As stated in recent news in BBC and CNN the latest attacks of al-qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Morako had been planned from al-qaeda leaders living in Iran. The goal of the IRI is to distract the freedom loving people so that they only concentrate on the beauty and the riches which is available only to the IRI officials and forget about all the terror casued by the Islamic regime not only to the Iranian people but to people all over the world.
Fortunately even the most beautiful and expensive house will not make us forget the faith of millions of innocents, who suffer so that Mr. Mousavi can enjoy his mansion. We condemn the existence of this house of horror and ask the reader to join us in the fight for an Iran where people live free of the oppressive Islamic Regime of Iran. Please help us in the fight for a free and democratic Iran.
Down with Dictatorship
Long Live Freedom
The Iranian Community in Ottawa