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Saturday, 20 April 2013 13:19

Architectural Evolution

With a history of thousands of years, Iranian architecture has encompassed a variety of structures from peasant huts, teahouses and garden pavilions to some of the most beautiful and majestic monuments the world has ever seen.

Since antiquity, Iranians compressed primitive mud as solidly as possible and allowed to dry into sun-dried bricks, tenacious gypsum mortar and stones, DestinationIran reported.

Even after more than 3,000 years, structures embodying elements of Iranian architecture have remained extant.

Those elements consist of high-arched portal set within a recess, columns with bracket capitals, columned porch, a dome on four arches, a vast ovoid arch in the entrance, high towers and intricate decorations.

In addition to the influence of climate, availability of construction materials, religious reasons and cultural factors, patrons also played a decisive role in the development of Iranian architecture.

The landscape itself, including snow-capped mountains, vast valleys and wide plains, required constructions conceived and executed in terms of grandeur.

Mountains were both physically and symbolically sources of inspirations in Iranian architecture.

Since ancient times, the beautiful was integrally associated with light. Iranian art, fundamentally, favored lightness and clarity and, conversely, avoided obscurity and confusion.

Beauty for ancient Iranians, like for other ancient civilizations, was an attribute of the divine.


Elamite Architecture

Farming hamlets dating from 8000-6000 BC have been the predecessors of Persian architecture.

From the fifth millennium, at the historical Sialk Mound, huts appeared. In the next stage, bricks and mud mortars and painted rooms appeared. Cone mosaics and colored and glazed bricks were later used in huge ziggurats.

Elamite architecture was generally of unfired brick, with red bricks used for revetment. Few centuries before Medes, in the northwest, cities had double and even triple stonewalls.

Very thick and very high buildings seem to have been wooden, square, tower-like structures, with columns that may have been tree trunks.


Achaemenian Architecture

Achaemenian architecture was an adoption and combination of Median, Assyrian, Elamite, Egyptian, Ionian and Urartian archetypes.

What differentiated Achaemenian architecture from each of its constituent styles was the peculiar style of combing them with the local taste and meanings.

Also, there were three major elements in Achaemenian architecture that were purely Iranian, namely columns, rock tombs and stairways.

Many other elements could be found at this period, inspired from the outside of Iran. However, newly combined elements and designs were created in a subtler way.


Seleucid and Sassanian Architecture

During the Seleucid Era, Hellenistic designs became dominant in the Iranian architecture, but never completely absorbed.

In areas with Greeks and Macedonians concentrations, cities were laid out according to geometric Greek plans, temples were built on Greek models and characteristic elements of Greek design were used for ornament.

The element called Eyvan emerged during the Parthian rule. The evolution of vaulting technique with mud bricks as well as fired bricks was a peculiar feature of this era. Walls and ceilings were also decorated with stucco.

The enormous entrance leading visitors to a domed chamber used as audience hall was the typical Sassanian archetype repeated in many palaces.

Walls were decorated with engravings, mural painting and other ornamentations. Floors and walls, in general, were usually treated with mosaics, large in scale and rich in color.

Plasterworks were generally molded rather than engraved. Hence, motifs were created as repeated and lengthened ones.

The Sassanian period’s art and architecture were widely used even long after the end of their empire.

The early centuries of Islamic architecture are marked by the Arab invasion of the Persian Empire in 637.


Post-Islam Architecture

It was in the post-Islam era that Sassanians’ powerful forms of architecture were refined and developed.

So, the potentials of Iranian architecture were developed into the architecture of exceeding beauty. The result was to be higher, more sensitive, more varied and more expressive than its antecedents.

The priority in post-Islam era’s architecture went to mosque building. Mosques were intended to stand strongly for ages.

That is why they have always been the most reinforced and strengthened buildings in Islamic architecture.

Mosques started to be built in two major forms, including mosques with prayer galleries full of pillars and smaller mosques consisting of a domed chamber.

Iranians focused their efforts on reviving their own heritage of architecture like barrel vaulting, crenellated roofs, big bricks and oval arches.

Brickworks in the form of different motifs and sometimes plasterworks over bricks were characteristics of the Persian architecture of the early post-Islam period.


Safavid Architecture

During the Safavid Dynasty, networks of caravansaries were constructed throughout the country to facilitate transportation and promote trade.

The Safavid architecture effectively influenced other countries’ construction activities. The emphasis on the greatness of buildings, started during the Timurids, continued to be a principle in many works. Radial symmetry was implemented in an official and splendid way.

Tiles, in comparison to previous eras, covered vaster surfaces. Colors and decorations were the main concern of architects, not the structure.

Safavid architecture was actually the climax of skill and experience of Iranian architects where traditional forms were easily used in awesome scales. Plenty of functional structures were also built like bridges, bazaars, bathhouses, water reservoirs, dams, pigeon towers and caravansaries.


Zand Architecture

Zand Dynasty was promoting an architecture that basically had a look at the sources of the Safavid, Seljuk and pre-Islam architecture, and adapted Indian and European architecture.

What looked more innovative were glazed tiles in a new color, almost pink and famous as Zand tile. Stone-made half vases were installed at dados and under designed tiles as well as cornucopias were implemented.


Qajar Architecture

Many mosques were built during Qajar Dynasty occupying a vast area with four-Eyvan plan and having a network of cupolas and window for getting light into the building.

Qajar buildings were different palaces, mansions, pavilions, summer resorts, hunting resorts as well as functional structures.

During Qajar period, military architecture received plenty of attention. Decorations remained harmonious and infallible.

They were influenced by the Western world and tried to imitate the Sassanian art. Magnificently decorated ceilings and hall walls with mirrorworks were flourished and promoted during this period.

Source: Iran Daily

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