When we think of salt, we think of it as a way to season our food. But for the Iranian Emtiaz Designing Group, salt was the main material for a new kind of eco-friendly building, the Salt Restaurant of Shiraz in southern Iran, where the walls, tables and even the stairs were covered with a salty coating. Best of all, this layer of salt helps to clean the polluted air of the city, while also giving this eatery a distinctive identity.
Inspired by local and naturally occurring salt caves of the region, Emtiaz wanted to create a design that reflected the area's distinctive salt mines and Marharloo salt lake of Shiraz. They explain:
In this particular case, the walls, structural sculptures and ceilings are made from salt sourced from the nearby salt mines and salt lake of Shiraz which was mixed with natural gum to harden it.
Salt is a natural disinfectant and the ions it releases also purify and filter the air, making it the perfect material for a restaurant.
We assume that the natural gums protect the salt from being washed away by rain. Salt powder and rock were used to make most of the surfaces, which curve and sweep, to mimic the real thing. To up the eco-friendly factor, recycled soda cans were used to fashion quirky chairs and the stair treads going up to the second floor.
Historically, we know salt was valuable, having even been once used as currency (hence the phrase "worth one's salt"). But in addition to promoting their unique idea of green building, using locally relevant materials, the architects are also trying to revive the ancient idea that salt has healing powers:
Salt suffers a bad reputation in gastronomy thanks to its overuse in most diets, meaning that most people are not aware of its astonishing healing powers. But in fact salt has been known as a powerful health remedy since ancient times, especially for respiratory health and detoxification. In many ways, these two functions are the foundation of overall health. Even Hippocrates prescribed salt water inhalation therapy for bronchial and lung disorders.
Flowing organically in form and clever in its use of materials, Shiraz's salt restaurant is an surprising interpretation of what modern green building might look like; more over at Emtiaz Designing Group.