Panel: Reimagining the Past: The Dilemma of Indigenous Persian Architecture

Hossein Amanat, Amanat Architects
“Persian Architecture: Past Inspiring Present”

Sussan Babaie, Courtauld Institute of Art
“Losing the Pedestrian: Maidan to Modern Maidan”

Talinn Grigor, UC Davis
“Liminality and the Modern Movement in Iran”

Moderated by Farbod Honarpisheh, Yale University and Summer Sutton, Yale University

May 21, 2021

More than a century of exposure to European modernity and its urbanization and architectural practices changed the Iranian urban landscape. New styles, concepts, functions and construction techniques came to redefine the very vocabulary of public and private spaces. The project of modernization relegated the indigenous Persian urban and architectural principles to the realm of outmoded, or at the best, made them subjects of nostalgic and decorative referencing. In an anxious rush to import Western “progress,” entire city quarters were demolished or damaged beyond repair, often turning them into instant slums. Regimented street grid ran across bazaars and destroyed mansions, monuments, city gates, and cultural landmarks. Royal palaces and government houses gave way to horrid government and commercial buildings devoid of identity or came to serve as military barracks. Hinterlands around towns and cities became subjects of land speculation, old urban quarters slowly dilapidated into ruination. In a rush toward functionality, mindless copying of modernist style created climatically unsuitable and aesthetically unappealing structures.