Iran. Does your mind run a reel of images and sounds of the middle east? 

The Persian civilizations. Its rich Iranian history. The deserts. The mosques. The namaaz. The hijab. Traditional Irani cuisine and its most celebrated bastani; the saffron flavoured ice cream.

Iran, one of the oldest civilizations birthed, is a country that was once known as Persia. A piece of land that holds an intense story that uplifts you yet weighs you down. A place that was juggled between political systems of dictatorship and democracy. Yet, like a flowing stream of strength, Iran inches towards a better life. Amidst all the blending politics, it endures and tries to build itself again. Even with all the hard notions about Iran being antimodern and uncertain, it holds a unique beauty.

Its smells. Its textures. Its citadels. Its bathhouses. An experience of a walk, in its markets. This article is an outline that fills you with the intricacies of Iran.

Here is a list of 15 places every architect must visit in Iran to expand their travel and design experience.

1. Naqsh-e-Jahan Square

The beautiful phrase Naqsh-e Jahan translates to the patterns of the world. The square is fringed by buildings of the Safavid era, each having its unique architecture and function. It is a delicately designed gem that shines in Isfahan, constructed between 1598 and 1629 in the edict of Shah Abbas the Great.

The square represents the four main pillars of power with four buildings in the cardinal directions. It is one of the greatest squares of the world that has sustained the strains and stories of its nation for more than 400 years and is currently one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

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160 metres wide by 560 metres long square adorned by several mosques,markets and cultural©httpvisitairan.comnaqsh-e-jahan-square.jpg
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The Imam Mosque,symmetrically reflecting its elegance in yellows and blues_©httpswww.irantravelingcenter.comnaqsh-e-jahan-square-isfahan.jpg
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A blissful ornate of the vaulted roof insides_©wikimedia.jpg
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Mosaic detail from one of the buildings at the square_©Wikimedia.jpg

2. Golestan Palace

The Golestan Palace is a heritage site that belongs to the royal Qajar dynasty complex. It is a savoured building of gardens, stained glass, and artifacts from the collection of Iranian crafts and presents from Britain of the 18th-19th centuries. It consists of multiple buildings with differing functions i.e., a marble throne, Pond House, Containers Hall, Ivory Hall, mirror hall, building of wind catchers and a museum of gifts, and many more. 

The beauty is concentrated because of its materials and style, and currently, it is an edifice that has lasted 400 years of renovations and preservation.

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The palace front; Twinning pathways separated by an enriching gush of water_©Pinterest.jpg
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A multicoloured mosaic canvas matched with natural stone and timber _©Pinterest.jpg
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Persian stained glass and dancing light_©Pinterest.jpg
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The mirror hall, rugged and royally lightened with chandeliers_©Pintterest.jpg

3. Aali Qapu Palace

An Imperial Palace located to the west of Nashq-e-Jahan served as a grand entrance to the vast palace. It holds a history of being the residence of the Safavid dynasty rulers. It has six floors summing up to a height of 42 meters. Spiral staircases were used for vertical circulation. 

The most highlighting feature is the music hall on the sixth floor, it has deep niches on the insides of its roof acting as an acoustic enhancer as well as an aesthetic value-adding element. This regal palace is recognized by UNESCO as a Safavid treasure.

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A mild purple sunset washing across the reflection of this spectacular beauty_©Amir Pashaei.jpg
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Dark hollows in the roof that enhances the sound quality of the music hall_©wikipedia.jpg
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A closer look at the patterned voids in the roof_©Evgeniy Fesenko.jpg
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The walls are tenderly coated in frescos and persian art and motifs_©wikipedia.jpg

4. Si-o-se-pol Bridge 

It is an extensive vaulted arched bridge that spans up to 298 meters in length and is one of the largest bridges laid in Isfahan. The bridge set over Zayanderud, the largest river in the Iranian plateau was built in the Safavid style to function both as a dam and a bridge. It is made of stone and brick and consists of 33 rows of superimposed arches. 

The bridge was the focal connecting element between the city’s vital Armenian neighborhood of New Julfa and the mansions of the elite.

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The illuminated arches flanked on both sides of the structure along its stretch_©wikipedia.jpg
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The interior of the bridge leaving a silenced echo of repetition_©Nasser-sadeghi.jpg
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The pathway captured in one point perspective_©

5. Chehel Sotoun

Chehel Sotoun is a structure in Isfahan, placed at the end of a welcoming waterbody. The name Chehel Sotoun translates to forty columns referring to the twenty columns at the entrance along with its reflection in the water, which makes it forty. This pavilion was used for receptions, entertainment purposes and to receive guests from other nations. 

It wears many frescos and ceramic paintings, of which a majority of the ceramic elements were invaded by the west. Currently, it is recognized by UNESCO as one of the 9 Iranian gardens.

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20 reflecting columns of strength_©
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Extreme intrication with frescos that are enthralling_© by Shah Abbas II to be used for his entertainment and receptions.
This Image is showing the Ceiling of it`s main hall.
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Interior of the luxurious galleries_©.,_Isfahan_Edit1.jpg

6. Azadi Tower

The 8000 pieces marble-clad tall tower was designed by Ar. Hossein Amanat, as an embodiment of the 2,500th year of the foundation of the Imperial State of Iran and, was completed in 1971. The structure is located in Azadi square which is also a part of the cultural complex and weighs upon an underground museum as well. 

It is 45 meters high and covers up to 68,000 square meters on the ground. The structure is an inverted Y in form and is a combination of traditional Iranian architecture and the modern style.

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The Azadi tower in daylight against a blue sky_©
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Plan of the Azadi Tower_©
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Azadi Tower and a full moon hung in the middle ground_©

7. Nasir-Al-Mulk Mosque

A shimmering pink dipping in sunlight, the Nasir-Al-Mulk Mosque is known for its pink interiors. Constructed during the Qajar dynasty(1876-1888, time taken for construction), is a traditional mosque located in Shiraz. Orsi, the stained glass is a defining element jutted between wooden doors that lead to the mosque’s prayer halls. 

The stained glass allows natural dancing light to form geometric shapes and ripples and creates a spiritual atmosphere. It is a structure that delivers a message of how something that looks plain on the outside can hold ravishing secrets and colours.

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A subtle cream tiled exterior_©Matt Biddulph.jpg
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A pink heaven on earth_©
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The delightful Muqarnas of Persia_©Matt Biddulph
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A woman in Hijab soaking in the light through the geometric stained glass_©

8. Nashq-e-Rostom

Nashq-e-Rostom literally translates to the throne of Rostom. Cliffs carved with Iranian cut reliefs, from both the Achaemenid and Sassanid periods.

The necropolis is composed of four rock-cut tombs clenching the remains of Achaemenid (c. 550–330 BC) rulers. It has several tombs, inscriptions and elements of religious importance.

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Ancient stone relics and depths of storing the dead_©Roozbeh Taassob.jpg
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Darius I Insciption_©Diego Delso.jpg
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Upper register of the Achaemenid Tomb of Xerxes I_©Wikipedia.jpg

9. Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse

Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse is a traditional Iranian bathhouse that covers an area of up to 1000 square meters. The design of the bathhouse (hammam) has two main areas, the garmkhaneh (hot bathing hall) and the sarbineh (dressing hall). An octagonal pool placed at the center of the octagonal hall with 8 pillars from the outer section composes the sabrineh.

The garmkaneh has four pillars with smaller bathing spaces. 

The interior of the bathhouse is a palette of paintings, gold tilework, plasterwork, brickwork, and turquoise. 

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The octagonal sabrineh clad in blue ceramics_©Amir Pashaei.jpg
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An ornate end wall that has witnessed leisure bathing of Iranians_©Amir Pashaei.jpg
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Plaster ornamentation in the most fine form_©Mohsen ghaemi.jpg

10. Jameh Mosque Of Isfahan

Jameh Mosque Of Isfahan built in the Umayyad Dynasty is a structure that has withheld numerous renovations, additions, and reconstructions from around 771 to the end of the 20th century. Designed in the four-iwan architectural style, placing four gates face to face. 

Iwan is a vaulted open room. Domed chambers, Muqarnas, Ceramic tile works, and Minarets are prevailing elements.

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Iwans captured in a panoramic view_©Hamidespanani.jpg
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The domes from right below it_©Diego Delso.jpg
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The southside Iwan splashed in miniscule patterns_©Diego Delso.jpg

11. Ali Sadr Cave

The Ali Sadr Cave is a natural primitive architectural marvel, the world’s largest water cave. The word sard translates to cold, the cave stretches up to 14km. Excavations and archeologists have sailed to the discovery of ancient artworks, pitchers, and jugs rolling back to 12,000 years ago. 

Animals, hunting scenes, arrows complimented by bows are depicted on the walls and passages proving the habitual intelligence of early man. The cave walls have been measured up to 40 meters high, and it has enriched large, deep lakes that can be explored by a boat in the current day.

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Caves with a breathtaking coolness of water_©Tehran Times.jpg
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Magnifecent natural dwellings of the past_© m.jpg
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Vibrant pink boats lined up to sail through the streams_©

12. Milad Tower

Tehran tower, the 6th tallest tower is a multi-purpose tower in Tehran. It is designed by Ar. Mohammad Reza Hafezi. The construction began in the year 2000 and took seven years to be completed. It has a floor count of 12 (312.0 meters high), covering 154,000 square meters on the ground. 

It is made up of five main parts, the foundation, the transition, shaft, head structure, and the antenna mast. It has an octagonal base signifying traditional Iranian architecture. 

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Mount Tochal , a horizontally stretching backdrop of this vertical mass_©Dara Zarbaf.jpg
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Entrance to the Milad Tower_©Wikipedia.jpg
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Stillness and flight_©Yassin Mohammadi on unsplash.jpg

13. Bam Citadel

Bam citadel is a beautiful place that is an apt example of conservation architecture.The entire structure was a large fortress enclosing the citadel yet it is known as the Bam citadel due to its dominance in the context.

History points it back to the Achaemenid Empire (sixth to fourth centuries BC). The citadel consists of four main sections:The citadel gained prominence from the seventh to eleventh centuries, as a junction along the silk road and other important trade routes, and as a producer of cotton garments and silk. 

This citadel experienced a brutal earthquake in the year 2003 and was restored to a great degree to preserve the cultural heritage.

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Stillness and flight_©Yassin Mohammadi on unsplash.jpg
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The state of the Citadel post the earthquake_©Wikipedia.jpg
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The state of the Citadel post restoration_©Wikipedia.jpg

14. Hasht Behesht Palace

Hasht Behesht Palace translates to eight heavens was based on the hasht behesht concept, that is its plan had eight rooms surrounding a central hall. It had two main entrances, the structure mainly functioned as a private pavilion. 

It is decorated with prismatic mirrors, tilework, plasterwork mural paintings, and perforated woodwork. It has sustained the facts and faces since the 17th century.

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Exterior of the leisure house_©Wikipedia.jpg
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Typical roofing system of the Iranian Architecture_©Wikipedia.jpg
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The front elevation captured at night_©Wikipedia.jpg

15. Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System

Empires and civilizations revolve around hydraulic systems. As architects, it is important to understand and scrutinize ancient hydraulic systems for a better understanding of treating water. The Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System is considered to be a master plan in the history of water systems. It dates back to the fourth century. 

The main principle involved creating a high raised cliff, of which the water would flow down in strong currents. It entailed the creation of 2 main rerouting canals on the river Kârun one of which, the Gargar canal, is still in use supplying water to the city of Shushtar through a series of tunnels. 

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The entire hydraulic system_©Wikipedia.jpg
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A small guardian wall that controls the flow_©Wikipedia.jpg
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Ancient ruins that once composed a magnificent water system_©Wikipedia.jpg

This was a travel list crafted with research and love. As architects, we have fragile filters. Ready to absorb impressions, learnings, and ideas of places and people. Hope this inspires you to take that travel decision and step out of your comfort zone, many places are waiting to tell you a story and Iran is one story that is beautiful to witness. To be a part of.


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Vajjrashri Anand is an architecture student who reads places and people like a story worth being told. She believes architecture is a lot like life; made of wonder, beauty and hurt. She strives to constantly evolve. A nuisance, a delight. A sting, a smile. She's a soul hugging one word at a time.

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