Tehran, from the beginning to today

Tehran means "who lives in the depths", because this city was at first an underground city. Formerly, on their arrival in Tehran, foreigners saw no city, only plane trees, fruit trees, especially grenadiers, and vegetable gardens. There was a great rivalry between the neighborhoods, so paranoia in the neighborhood prevented the population from raising livestock for fear of being stolen by their neighbors. The standard of living of the population was very low. This troglodyte habitat has lasted five hundred years. It still existed in 1810, occupied by a poor population.

From the thirteenth century, some houses began to emerge on the surface. In 1550, a king of the Safavid dynasty undertook the construction of his hunting residence. The first walls encircling the city, six kilometers long, were erected in 1553. Tehran became the capital of Iran only under the Qajjar dynasty in 1789.
In the course of Tehran's history, every dynasty tried to destroy what the previous one had done. Thus, in the modern era, Qadjar architecture was systematically destroyed by that of the Pahlavi. Mohammad Reza brought down, among other things, the walls as well as the splendid doors that allowed the crossing. Adding to this that the people of Tehran have always come from different parts of Iran, even surrounding countries, the tendency is to say that Tehran has no memory. Especially since, in the last two decades of the twentieth century, the remains of the imperial era have, in turn, gradually disappeared, in favor of a construction more in line with the current increase of the Tehran population and the application of the necessary rules in this area of ​​Iran subject to seismic risk.

When it was created in 1969, Tehran's urban planning code required the setting up of any new building north of each parcel, with 40% of the area to be reserved for the garden, which must be in the south. A decree dating back to the beginning of the twenty-first century limited the height of new residential buildings to five levels, and in the last decade, the thirty-storey towers have multiplied, replacing the beautiful traditional houses still inhabited at the beginning of the 20th century. 21st century. At present, neighborhoods near the foothills of Alborz, north of Tehran, and in the east and west of the city, have large yards of very tall buildings.

In recent years, however, there is a willingness on the part of the authorities to trace the Iranian past. Several examples of this will can be observed, such as the preservation - alas a little late - of these magnificent buildings of the imperial era, of which the most beautiful have been transformed into museums, thus opening them to the Iranian people; or made available to administrations or various organizations. For example, UNESCO's offices in Tehran have been located since 2003 in Bahman House, named after the son of the last Shah who occupied it. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in Sa'dabad's beautiful park. Moreover, this park, cool at the mountains, is dotted with a dozen buildings dating from the Pahlavi era, including the summer palace of Shah. Other houses in Sa'dabad Park have been home to various museums since the 1979 Revolution. This is the case, among others, of the house Ala ', inspired by the architecture qadjare, which belonged to Hossein Ala', Prime Minister of the last Shah of Iran, and nowadays houses the center of Belles Lettres or from the house of Dr. Hesabi, considered the father of modern physics (1903-1992), located in the Tajrish district of north Tehran.


Bahman House in Sa'dabad Park



House of Dr. Hesabi - Tehran



Iranian contemporary architecture


Contemporary Iranian architecture also finds its place in projects that use metal structures and concrete as well as brick and stone. This is the case, for example, of the works of the well-known Iranian architect Houshang Seyhoun (1920-2014), which is part of the traditional modernist movement, combining elements that take both architecture and architecture. contemporary and traditional Iranian architecture. Mostly famous internationally for its mausoleums of famous people, such as that of the painter Kamal-ol-Molk and the poet Omar Khayyam in Neyshabour, Ferdowsi, author of Shahnameh, the great Persian epic, to All, Abu Ali Sina (Avicenna) in Hamedan, he was the first in Iran to make use of the concept of free plan, which uses carrying poles instead of load-bearing walls replaced by partitions, leaving a complete freedom in the composition of spaces.


The Shahr Theater of Parviz Tanavoli




The architect Hossein Amanat - whose Tower Azadi (Freedom Tower), emblematic monument of the city of Tehran, was built in 1971 on the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire, combining Sassanid and Islamic styles - is also a great figure of modern architecture in Iran.

The city of Tehran also owes the architect Kamran Diba the construction of several remarkable works such as the Museum of Contemporary Art and some houses including that of the artist Parviz Tanavoli in the Niavaran district north of Tehran.


The French Embassy in Tehran, a fine example of Franco-Iranian architecture

The French Embassy is located on rue Nofl Le Chato (approximate Latin transcript of Neauphle le Chateau, as it appears on the panel of the rue de Tehran which bears the name of the commune of the French department of Yvelines which hosted the Imam Khomeini during his exile in France). It was built from 1894 to 1896 on a plot of 12,000 m2 donated by the Shah of Iran, Nasseddin Shah Qadjar, to the Government of the French Republic, by a concession firman dated March 24, 1891, bearing the stamp of the Emir ol Sultan and Kawam ol Dowleh and the signature - illegible - of the Chancellor, translated into French by G. Audibert, first dragoman.
The site of this embassy has the particularity of bringing together in one place the two buildings of the embassy and the residence of the ambassador and his family. Probably because at this time when water was scarce, the Shah Nassereddin had taken care to give the French representation a ground supplied with water by a qanat, an underground channel coming from the mountain, located at a depth of 90 meters under floor. It is this same water that is still used today for watering the gardens of the residence and the neighboring chancery.

The residence of the French ambassador in Tehran


The architecture of this residence, consisting of an apparatus of bricks and metal beams, is designed according to a neo-Louis XIII inspiration. It takes again the plans of the castle of Maremberts, that Mr. André de Balloy, Minister of France since 1881, had been built in the valley of the Loire. The metal plates for the roof were made in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Later, side extensions will enlarge the original building without changing the original appearance. The most important transformation was the transfer of the official entrance to the north and the conversion of the hall of honor with Persian decor into a living room.

The traditional decor of the Persian palaces bringing its note of East to the residence of France, it is unanimously admitted that this construction acquired, with time, a prominent place among the beautiful residences of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Some traditional houses of Isfahan province

These are mostly beautiful Qadjair mansions of the 19th or early 20th century, or the Safavid era, dating back to the 17th century, during which the Shah Abbas made Isfahan his capital. Rich merchants or wealthy imams settled in the city at these good times, having built beautiful reception houses.

A dozen of these beautiful homes, renovated or under renovation, are still visible in Isfahan. The most remarkable being:

The A'lam house, the most beautiful and the largest, remarkably restored. Like all the traditional houses of Persia, it has two parts: the andarouni or private space, reserved for the household, and the birouni or public space, reserved for visitors.

Amin House and Sheikh-ol-Eslam House, built according to the same organization. The second also includes a tekieh, a traditional religious theater, used during the religious ceremonies of Ashura and Tasu'a. Today they have both been converted into traditional art workshops where young people learn about the art of carpeting, woodcarving, pottery and marquetry, with the advice of their peers. professors, prestigious artists of the city of Isfahan. Visitors are welcome. These workshops were created by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, which is part of the Iranian Ministry of Culture and is located in every province of Iran, commonly known as the Cultural Heritage.


Amin House of Isfahan transformed into a workshop of artistic activities


Still others, such as the Dibai house, have been renovated by their owners and converted into a hotel for tourists. The house Nilforoushan, which is remarkable for its beautiful glass facade on the garden side, was built under the Qadjars on a Safavid style plan. The Mojtahedzadeh house, marked by its two spectacular wind towers bringing fresh air into the building, has also been heavily renovated.

The Dibai house in Isfahan

The prestigious Abbassi Hotel, dating back to the 17th century, occupies a special place in Isfahan. Named originally Caravanserai of the Queen Mother, it housed a caravanserai, a madrasa (religious school), a bazaar and a square Persian garden of eighty meters, side decorated with a pond. Restored by the French archaeologist André Godard in 1957, it has become a luxury hotel.

The city of Kashan, a beautiful city in the province of Isfahan, offers visitors a superb collection of traditional houses and a 19th century madrasa, still in use. This madrasa, named Aqa Bozorg, is a beautiful building whose plan, similar to that of the mosques of the Persian tradition, includes, besides the premises of the scientific and religious school, a mosque surmounted by its traditional dome as well as a superb garden surrounding a body of water. The most beautiful historical houses of Kashan are called Ameri, Ehsan, Abbasiyan, Tabatabali, Borudjerdi. These last two are the work of Ostad Ali Maryam, famous architect of the nineteenth century. The Tabatabai house is named after a family of carpet traders for whom it was built. The Boroudjerdi house was built for the Tabatabani family's daughter when she got married. Some have been converted into hotels of great refinement.

All these beautiful mansions are Qadjar period, built according to the same plan: the buildings include the elements of traditional Persian residential architecture such as birouni and andarouni and are distributed around courtyards, up to four for larger ensembles , embellished with a central basin. Their walls, painted and decorated with engravings, offer beautiful openings in the form of windows with multicolored stained glass windows (called orossi in Persian).