Due to rapid growth in urbanization and industrialization, social equilibrium and economic development have taken hold of the physical and mental health of human beings. This condition was observed in Iran, a place where one could connect to nature at the same time has some cultural importance in this heritage country.
In the ancient city of love and literature, lies the origin of Persian Gardens. The warmth and hospitality of the people are reflected in the city’s glory, highlighting the cultural city of Shiraz. The city of marvellously designed gardens where one can smell the fragrance of the orange tree blossoms in the air. Amidst this city, an architectural marvel which fascinates every visitor especially the ones from the field of architecture.
Bagh-e-Eram, an ancient historical structure whose play of colors leaves the visitors mesmerized, relaxed and brings up the feeling of being sacred The landscaped garden is a ‘Haelon’ which represents wholeness, correctness, and integration directly touching the physical, emotional, and mental health of the visitor.
Eram Garden is located in the northwest of Shiraz, due to the political and economic challenges, historical gardens were not celebrated as a significant part of Iran’s heritage. A shift of importance was given to the development of cities and the built environment as a part of cultural heritage neglecting the conservation of gardens.
Originally built as an oasis but after gradual development of the city, it became an urban green cover blending with the mixing with the built fabric.
In the coming years, Persian gardens were perceived as an architectural monument status and subsequently became a part of the Landscape Design curriculum. The module aimed to curtail the mimicking of the west and proposed practices that emphasized the good practices used while designing parks based on the Iranian-traditional roots. This in turn also manifested in increasing the attention towards the historical gardens. The Chahar bagh layout is an eminent character in the art of designing gardens which are found in Eram; Afif Abad; Golshan; and Delgosha among other gardens.
The Bagh-e-Eram was one of the nine most outstanding Persian gardens as World Heritage sites (WHS) on the world heritage list. One of the prime reasons to include the garden in the WHS was not for economic revenue but to retrieve the identity of the country through landscape design and to provide the country with international recognition. After its nomination by the WHS, and only then the decision of restoration was given further attention.
The restoration of the garden was handed over to the Agriculture department of the University of Shiraz, since it was in better condition the Eram garden was used as a Botanical Research centre. Regular maintenance by the centre held the authenticity and integrity of this Persian garden.
The sole motive for the refurbishment of Eram was to revive the heritage value of Shiraz, Iran but during the process, the authenticity was lost. Plantation of non-native plants, rockeries, and trees lost the opportunity to feel Eram’s original horticulture qualities. Design improvisations in the layout of the garden threatened the serenity of the place and damaged the physical legitimacy.
Natural Elements reflecting sustainability
Natural Elements play a very important role in the designing and functioning of the Eram garden. Water and vegetation are the main components that act as passive cooling devices. The garden in itself creates a micro-climate guiding the winds onto the water body, as a result, increasing the weather humidity reducing the air temperature in the arid region. The flora plays multiple roles such as creating an architectural structure and divulging aesthetical effects, modifying the local atmospheric conditions.
The placement of the plantation is planned strategically in such a way, excluding the central axes (pavilion) that it provides shade and absorbs the sun’s harsh radiations diverting the breeze to alter the microclimate and provides protection from the and local dusty winds. One of the typical features is planting the sqest, a type of clover which functions as a pathway, absorbs the nitrogen, transfers it to the soil, and also prevents encroachment of the insects. It is easy to maintain, requires less water, and can be used as cattle feed during winters.
Water is used in two ways in the garden. One is to regulate the microclimate through irrigation, and the second, to create a mesmeric water display. The source of water to this Persian garden is the branch of the great river located in the northwest. The mechanism is planned in a sustainable manner flowing through a series of ponds, pavilions, water pools, and streams to irrigate the garden. After irrigating the plants in the garden it flows out and irrigates the nearby farms and other lands diminishing the chances of wastage of water.
As the garden is located in an arid zone it is prone to drought conditions as a solution to this ponds were created to store water, canals, and streams to irrigate the vegetation and fountains and cascades for beautification. One more strategy which was adopted was to orient the main pools in the direction of the wind creating an evaporating cooling effect.
The Pavilion and the wall are the only two built elements in Eram. The Pavilions have an extroverted opening into the exterior, unlike other traditional buildings. Oriented to north-south, it receives the lowest amount of solar radiation and due to its strategic location at the highest points on the 1/3 and 1/6 end respectively the cool winds blow from the northwest keeping the local climate pleasant. The other element, the wall surrounds the garden, guarding the natural features in form of security and from the dusty winds and maintains the humidity inside the garden.
Iwan, a single vaulted hall opening outside, acts as an entrance to the pavilion and links it to the garden. The balcony on the other hand is an isolated part offering a panoramic view yet remains invisible to strangers. These semi-open spaces are located on the north and south sides creating a breeze within the green space. The shading devices were designed in such a manner wherein a reduction in the solar glare also prevented reflection to any part of the building through an opening.
Brick was the only material used for gardens and pavilions as it is extremely sustainable, local, possesses high thermal resistance and thermal capacity, and is a good conductor of heat. The pavilions were plastered with white stucco plaster to reflect the heat of the sun. The tiles which were used were low maintenance and could be easily washed or changed. These vernacular materials of the arid region were used resourcefully by the designer.
The sustainable strategies in the Persian garden could be an aid to futuristic sustainable landscape design and appropriate solutions for environmental problems in current cities.
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