Interview with Jamshid Tanavoli

Interview with Jamshid Tanavoli (Architect)

Date: 21 September 2017

Time: 8:00 PM

Interviewer: Sara Shaban-Azad (Research Assistant)


When Kamran Diba returned to Iran he rented an old 3-storey building on Rasht Street (the street parallel to Taleghani Road) for his firm. He used the third floor as his office space and the second floor was made into a restaurant for artists, poets, writers, film directors as well as TV and film actors. It was named after the street it was on and the number of the building: Rasht 29 Club.


Kamran had already met my brother Parviz Tanavoli, a well known artist and sculptor, who also taught at the University at the time and knew all the other famous artists. Together, they decided to start a club so they got a permit from the office of municipal public space but since they needed the license to be in someone else’s name, Roxana Saba (daughter of famous violinist Abolhasan Saba) announced her willingness to have it in hers.


For a time, Kamran and Parviz managed the club by themselves. Later on, they were too busy with other projects and it was about to go bankrupt, so they asked me to help run it. I managed the club until 6 months before it finally closed down.


Kamran Diba was acquainted with many courtiers and officials, inviting many of them there. Many artists came too. The food was much cheaper (compared to similar places) so it was affordable for everyone.


The club’s interior was beautifully decorated even though it wasn’t very big and could only hold about 80 people or so. Customers could also have their private parties there, but it was never exclusive to a certain group. There were always other people around. The atmosphere was so friendly you felt like you were at a family party. They served meals like duck with orange sauce, steak, chicken kebab, schnitzels and other simple Iranian and mediterranean dishes.


Those who were educated abroad used to love cabaret dance shows and Siah Bazi (traditional Iranian comedy) performances. We had all sorts of games like darts, backgammon and chess. I was an expert at darts and backgammon. Houshang Seyhoun and I would often play together.


Around the same time, Kamran met architect and designer Keyvan Khosravani and suggested he use the first floor to open the first menswear boutique in Tehran. Together with partner Bijan Pakzad, Keyvan opened Elegant 27 but less than two years later he moved to Bahar Street and opened another store called Number One, which was considered the best menswear boutique in Tehran for years. Years later, Bijan went to the States and started his own fashion design brand, attracting the richest and most powerful people in the world as his clientele. Among them were presidents, ministers and world-class entertainers.


The founders weren’t bothered with making money or profit and the club was mostly to benefit artists; artists could use the space without paying a fee. Strangers were seldom let in, unless they were the guests of others. Many times, we declined requests offering a lot of money to rent the space for private parties, insisting it was a place that only belonged to artists. We held a few private art auctions there and many important people came and bought these paintings. One painting by the late Pilaram started at 1000 Tomans and went all the way up to 120,000! It was very good for the artists to have their works sell 80-100 times higher than their usual price.


There were no other places for artists to hang out back then. The club’s best quality was that it allowed people from different artistic, cultural and literary backgrounds to come together. Many people from the radio and television networks came, including: Massoumeh Seyhoun (gallerist) and her late husband Houshang Seyhoun, Karl Schlamminger (sculptor and tutor), Faramarz Pilaram (painter), Sohrab Sepehri (poet and painter), Hossein Zenderoudi (painter) Iraj Pezeshkzad (writer), Mr. Mostowfi (architect), Minoo Zolfaghari, Ruhollah Mobbasher (President of Sabet Pasal TV Network), Morteza Akbari, Bahram Bakhtiar, Parviz Tanavoli and his wife Manijeh, Bijan Pakzad (designer), Keyvan Khosravani (architect/designer), Bijan Saffari (painter and architect) Mr. Ara, Mr. Valais (University professor), Mr. Shahkar, Roxana, Saba, Bahman Mohasses (painter), Sirous Jahanbani, Behjat Sadr (painter), Mohammad Ali Sepanlou (poet), and my wife - Giti - and I.


Once I remember the club’s guard came in and said there is a man outside who wishes to speak with me. He was standing there in regular clothes and introduced himself: “I am the Tehran Chief of Police. I know my wife is inside but I am not allowed in. Why is that?”

I asked him: “Would you like your wife to be alone in a place where they let just anybody in? We care very much about the security of our establishment.”