Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Second post on Iran: Buildings (click on photos for greater detail)

Milad Tower, Tehran, 2007,435m, 6th tallest in world
The first post gave an overview of landscapes and domes. Here is an overview of buildings. I was quite surprised in my observation that there were few attractive buildings in the 4000km we traversed. The old mosques were indeed exquisite examples of incredible tile work.

The palaces (as is usual with palaces) were magnificent, over-the-top in expensive materials and designs and many were exquisite examples of gaudiness.
Golestan Palace, Tehran: tiles! murals! mirrored balcony!
In general, we saw few attractive, innovatively designed new buildings, the exception being in Shiraz. We same numerous villas in Tehran, in the country-side to the north, we saw some in Esfahan and they may well have been beautiful on the inside. But, the urban landscape was generally not appealing.
one of four sides of the Bazaar, Hamadan

The old parts of Kashan and Yazd did have beautiful traditional houses, but as is tradition, they were courtyard homes behind high mud-and-plaster walls. New construction of residential and non-high-rise commercial buildings were not attractive; high-rises in general were also lacking in eye-appeal.
New construction across Shordabil Lake

In towns and cities, there was                                                        
Construction near Shordabil Lake, Ardabi
 a real sense of Soviet Realism or at least,1960's Brutalism! It was pointed out to me that given Iran/Persia's history, it has been over 2000 years of invasions and earthquakes and perhaps this has shaped the public's lack of attachment to general external architectural design.
Caravanserai/hotel at Bistoun;background is inscriptions by Darius the Great
Interiors of the remodeled or renovated traditional houses or caravanserai were exquisite.
Breakfast at Negrin Traditional House, Kashan

Interiors in most of the more modern hotels were nothing to write home about, whether they were 3,4,or 5 star. Much of what I observed, I came to understand, was from the eye of a tourist from somewhere else. How I saw/perceived things may not have been how local people did. Certainly in villages or small towns, this could be reduced to socio-economic differences.
New villa and hotel in countryside near Rasht
Where we saw poverty in rural areas or small towns, our guide did not see what we saw: she saw people who were land-rich and that the condition of small shops and businesses did not tell the whole story. Because of the droughts in recent years and the results of sanctions, there has been tremendous population movement from the countryside to the cities. Tehran's population has swelled to over 8 million in 2011 from 4 million in the late 1970's. This is true of many of the cities, especially after recent earthquakes. This makes for a cultural sea-change that has effects rippling through local politics, commerce, education, and the arts.

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