The idea of the ideal is no stranger in Iran. Indeed Iranian culture seems in various ways drawn toward the prospect of perfection. The wider world, in which most of us live, owes to this complex and sometimes turbulent world the concept of paradise; or at least that word’s etymology in pairi.daêza-, according to Wikipedia a “walled (enclosure)”, from pairi- “around” + -diz “to create, make”. And many great works of Persian art, film, poetry or design appear, at least to this outsider, to be highly focused, ruthlessly edited compositions…in fact, entire constructed worlds in and off themselves. The villas built recently by the young Iranian architect Pouya Khazaeli Parsa are striking as stark concentrations of plastic ambition. First the Darvish Residence-a habitable staircase ascending to the sky-and now the Shahbazi Residence-a white cubic villa balanced on four flattened pilotis-arrest our attention by their blunt synthesis of structure, skin and sequence of inventive space. These villas are cosmopolitan yet also somehow impressively direct. They communicate architecture’s legacy of the Ideal Villa in language that evokes many raw, even Utopian modernist experiments. The Darvish Residence loops around on itself to form a three-dimensional serpentine route rising about an ornamental square pond. This pool not only cools the air; it and the void above function as the symbolic center of the home, a geometric and axial sign that also mirrors the sky. The language of this first house by Pouya Khazaeli-the undecorated structure; the white, black and reddish palette; the flat and stepped roof terraces-recalls the Purist work of Le Corbusier, inspired by that master’s “Voyage d’Orient” a century ago, and projects by such distinct and different Early Modernist architects as Melnikov, Terragni and O’Gorman. If the Darvish Residence entices the visitor to explore a rewarding architectural promenade, leading from the street up through the bowels of the house to a spectacular rooftop with beachfront views, the Shahbazi Residence is more hermetic. In photographs of Darvishabad, its location near the Caspian Sea, it appears as an independent object almost divorced from Planet Earth and offering onlookers few clues to its inner life. On each of its four sides this hovering square villa is connected to the ground by merely a single slim pier, a pier placed at the center-point of each façade so that the corners of the Shahbazi Residence float in pure space. This objective quality, with its allusions to nature (the Shahbazi structure as stereometric tree?) and shelter (the house as canopy), has affinities in Japanese architecture from Metabolist Kiyonori Kikutake’s Sky House of 1958 to lucid pavilions by Khazaeli’s one-time employer, Shigeru Ban. The square plan has of course precedents in many architectural cultures. Khazaeli’s erosion, however, of his flat and uniformly white facades by asymmetrical fenestration and-most tellingly-the revelation of the raised undercroft as a diagonal web of beams signal a rotational tactic like those favored in the West by the New York Five in their interpretation of classic European Modernism. Light flickers across this concrete soffit, reflected up from a shallow pool set, like the beams above, at 45 degrees to the building envelope. At ground level, an orthogonal grid of pavers turns to become a path and then a steep staircase rising, without railings or balustrade, to ascend into a skinny void in the entry façade. The elevated entry hall - a modern piano nobile - is furnished with white walls and white fixtures, such as folding doors and radiators, sandwiched between concrete floor and roof slabs. One can ascend further, up to a roof terrace secluded behind the high facades. There, as at Barragán’s famous house in Mexico, the ceiling is the sky. Wikipedia tells us that Mazandaran, the province where Khazaeli has built these villas, “features plains, prairies, forests and jungles stretching from the sandy beaches of the Caspian Sea to the rugged and snowcapped Elburz sierra.” In a similar instant, Google Images produces a surprising gallery of deep green valleys, waterfalls, rice paddies, log cabins, and the luminous canopy of mature trees. There are ludic qualities, therefore, about this region of Iran, a region clearly distinct from more desert-like zones of the country. This has led Khazaeli to build not only elegant vacation homes but also a prototype for inexpensive bamboo housing. The architect explains that he was asked to propose “a novel model of construction for the development of a resort town near the forests of Katalom.” These small structures are made from rods of local bamboo, soft and flexible if used soon after harvesting. The bamboo is set into gas piping acquired in neighborhood markets and arranged into two half-circles of slightly different radii. Because of this difference, the bamboo cage assumes a torqued form to be clad or caked in locally-sourced rice stems and allowing for two slots for access and ventilation. Because the piping simply sits on the ground, the cabins can also be moved. Attention to both bespoke villas and minimal, low-cost habitation is of course the modus operandi of Shigeru Ban - an interesting strategy allowing young designers work at different scales and with different budgets. Ban manifests certain East Asian characteristics; he was also, however, educated in the United States and indebted specifically to John Hejduk, the most poetic of the New York Five. Khazaeli is undoubtedly his own man, surprising many of us with these sophisticated constructs. They communicate a culture that is articulate and reflective, that is confident in the world. And they have interior life. The Shahbazi Residence creates three memorable zones - garden, apartment and roof terrace - stacked vertically. These layers might be likened to Western or Modernist space, private space, and Middle Eastern or traditional space. There is however a hidden surprise. A lightwell on the enclosed roof terrace folds downward to appear in the apartment below as a central glazed column, a lantern during day and night that also serves to ventilate and expel rainwater. It is perhaps a second metaphorical tree but a tree that unlike the house’s principal structure is transparent, a calibrated void at the core of this intriguing new work from Iran.