farzinfarzin investigates the means by which objects, sites and systems acquire cultural value and examines the representation of value in architectural form. In what unexpected ways might architecture engage questions of history, preservation, and political contingency? Can a method of intervention in these matters be learned from the hairy logic of computational processes?  The studio addresses these questions through the design of spaces, software, and media. 

farzinfarzin was founded in 2008 by Farzin Lotfi-Jam. Lotfi-Jam (b. Tehran) is faculty in the graduate school of architecture at Columbia University and holds advanced degrees from Columbia University and RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. He is a Fellow of the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart and was previously a Sanders Fellow at the University of Michigan. His research has been funded by the Veski organization and the Graham Foundation, and has been collected by the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He has been exhibited at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, AIGA/NY Annex, the Oslo Architecture Triennale, the Venice Architecture Biennale, and elsewhere. 







Designed and developed with v-a.nyc 

Hairy Value: UNESCO


Taubman College Gallery, Ann Arbor, USA 2014.

Research contributors: John Arnold, Mary Kate Bachler, Alexandra Bernetich, Taylor Carr, Ian Donaldson, Phillip Gavrilovski, Kevin Kerwan, SJ Kwon, Philip Marcantonio, Eric Minton, Chelsea Meyer, Lian Ojakangas, Daniel Tish, Madelyn Willey, Samuel Xu, Sarah Zamler, Liyi Zhu


This research examines the United Nations Education Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the 759 cultural entrants on UNESCO’s World Heritage List (WHL). Governing states nominate sites for world heritage evaluation, and sites enter the WHL if they satisfy one or more of six selection criteria, a definition and quantification of ‘universal value’. An analysis of the 759 sites on the list found 54 permutations of the six selection criteria. This research analyzed in detail one site from each of the 54 permutations.


If what is of interest in Hairy Balls is the translation of algorithm into some type of complex form, what UNESCO queries is the translation from artifact into asset. This is not to say that asset is the same thing as complex form, but what is of interest is the way in which value is shown to be complexly configured in this translation—historical, cultural, or even financial—and that UNESCO is the operator of this exposure of, the amplification of, and the translation into value. The formal experiments on the Hairy Balls resonate with the experiments on the qualifications of value that UNESCO reveals. UNESCO’s criteria operates as algorithm, a type of institutional scripting. UNESCO isn’t exactly the same as a Hairy Ball, but it does share a logic, with one system generating heritage, and the other form.


<<UNSESCO is a method of translating cultural value into physical space through preservation, but might architecture offer an alternative method for physically expressing value?>>

Logic of WHL list, selection criteria for cultural entrants.

759 sites mapped to the frequency of selection criteria permutations (54 permutations in total).

The Acropolis. Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)(vi)

Example sites from each criteria permutation.

Example sites from each criteria permutation.

Animation stills of 54 WHL sites, expanded, and flattened onto a singular axonometric terrain.