Culture and design have always felt entwined for Iranian-born architect and furniture designer Saba Yazdjerdi. She honed her skills developing cultural venues in her native Tehran, including the award-winning Argo Factory, a century-old defunct brewery reimagined as a contemporary art museum. Now based in San Francisco, Yazdjerdi’s work continues to explore Iran’s heritage through the lens of modern day design. Her recently released furniture line, Pahlevoon Series, inspired by the millennium-old Persian martial art of Pahlevan, reinterprets the sport’s traditional training gear still in use by practitioners today.
Equipment like the mil—wooden clubs originally used to strengthen bygone mace-wielding warriors—were a familiar sight at her beloved grandfather’s house. “We were not supposed to touch them,” laughs the designer. “But I would sneak in with my cousins and try to lift them.” She retained her childhood fascination with the sport that her grandfather helped revive, drawn to its sculptural paraphernalia and chivalric ethos. “Pahlevan means ‘hero’ in Farsi,” she explains. “The title is only given to someone with modesty, strength, respect and selflessness.”
Each piece in the collection subtly underscores these heroic principles. For her Mil-stone bench, the bleached-ash wood mil supports a delicate jewel slab of orange onyx. “Choosing a material that was beautiful and elegant, but also heavy was really important to convey that sense of vigor,” she says. Yazdjerdi also sees her work as a tribute to her grandfather and a way of continuing his legacy. “As a designer, it’s important to reclaim our Iranian identity, and introduce the culture, poetry and thousands of years of history to the world.”