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I grew up and spent much of my life living in two worlds, Britain and Iran. A deep sense of belonging to Iran is still with me. A place of inspiration and beauty where each area of the country holds something different, whether it be its buildings, history, culture or the weather or the terrain, all of which have reasons as to how there is so much variation in architecture and art in one country, with a large history of invention and architectural design.
Persian architecture goes back to about 5000 BCE. Persia, or Iran as it is now known, is a vast country, 6 times as big as Britain. Due to factors such as the weather and the different cultures in the regions of the country, architecture differs, this is because the people had to adapt to a way of living that would be suitable to the elements of the weather and also the natural resources which were available to them. Natural building materials available are also a major factor to the different forms of structures. The country also has a large history of invention and architectural design.
I will argue whether we would be able to utilise the basic features of old Persian interior and exterior design today, to be able to design more Eco friendly environments.
MATERIALS AND TYPES OF BUILDINGS:
Iranian architecture has several basic characteristics:
Symmetry and anti symmetry
The design of the building is usually dictated by the natural materials which are available. Heavy clays, mud, lime mortar and heavy plastic earth and wood. A lot of these materials and the building methods developed by the use of the materials are still being used today. Most of the materials can be found in Britain and although we do not want to be building primitive huts, the materials and methods could be implemented when designing today.
In the northern areas of Gilan and Mozandaran ( Caspian sea ) due to the amount of rainfall and the abundance of wood, most of the structures are built with wooden frames, similar to British building design with wooden framework in the building and roof. Many buildings have thatched roofs and due to the amount of rainfall, overhanging roofs so that a covered terrace can be utilised at all times.
A village house in rural, Babol, Mozandaran, North Iran.
This house would have been built by using a wooden frame, the spaces are filled with branches, which act as a mess. The framework is then coated with a mixture of mud, lime mortar and straw, (STUCCO) which is thrown at the framework, in order to fill in any crevices. The branches, which sometimes still have leaves on them, act as insulation. The structure is then covered again both on the inside and the outside with mud/lime mortar/straw mixture and left to dry. It is then white washed. The ceilings are made from tree trunks, which are overlaid with either branches or canes. This again provides insulation to the building, which is primitive, but hardy. The roof is either thatched or covered in slates, which is another natural resource, which is readily available. Window frames and doors are all hand crafted from wood which is available in the many forests of the region. All of the features of the building are bio-degradable.
(Could this form of insulation be used in eco friendly buildings ? find examples )
"Natural building" has become a catch phrase for a variety of building techniques that generally employ unprocessed natural materials, such as earth, stone, and straw. The focus is mainly on the material itself, and to some extent the methods that are used to work with the material, rather than the architectural design or other aspects of building that might be explored. If the phrase is reversed to "building naturally," this opens up a whole new level of consideration. Just what does it mean to build naturally , or to build with nature ?" ( Hart 2001)
Kelly's house is not much different from a traditional building found in the northern provinces of Iran. Built by a similar method.
Another example of building with nature and using natural resources can be found again in the northern provinces in a village high in the mountains, called, Masuleh.
The architecture of Masuleh, is different from anywhere else. The setup is that the roofs of the house lower down are the gardens of the next house. Its beautiful to see and the original idea has worked well.
(Could this type of structural design be implemented in Britain - examples of this ?)
The houses were built in this fashion due to them being built on a mountain side.
The village is formed on several different levels which are irregular. These are going up the mountain side. There is nowhere else in Iran where a building development like this can be found. There are no streets or roads and each roof is a route to another level. The roofs are also classed as gardens.
In the central regions and the south there is an abundance of mud and clay and this led to structures being built from these substances and the making of brick and thus brick built structures. In areas of the country such as Kerman, where there are deserts and an arid countryside, most buildings were made from clay or mud. The materials which were locally available, such as clay and mud, played a large part in the design of buildings. Mud was moulded to shape buildings and to this day, this method is still in use.
The bi-millenium old citadel of Arg-e-bam. The worlds largest adobe structure.
"Adobe is an ancient building material which is in wide use in many desert regions of the world. It has also experienced a resurgence in popularity in areas of the world where people are concerned about environmentally sustainable architecture, because adobe is renewable, efficient, and naturally sourced. You can see many examples of adobe architecture across the Middle East, American Southwest, and Latin America, running the gamut from modest homes to sprawling complexes."
To make adobe, people mix sand, clay, and straw. Many people like to use dirt, which has a natural mixture of sand and clay, to make their adobe. Once the materials are mixed, they are packed into molds or shaped by hand into bricks which are allowed to dry in the sun. After around a month of drying, the adobe bricks can be used to build a structure which is mortared together with fresh adobe.
Ancient Iranian architects were great users of geometry, using pure forms such as the circle and the square, building plans and designs were based on symmetrical layouts. Scale was of great importance to design, as it is today. Iranian architecture is still based on harmony with people, their environment and their lifestyles.
British architects and engineers build to line, if we take a look at our housing developments, from an aerial view, we would see row after row of buildings of the same shape and size which look regimented and there is no real beauty about them, no soul to them. It is like no feeling has gone into the designing of these structures and there is no decorative work on the exterior of the buildings. We do have modern architecture, again this has no soul and there are architectural monstrosities which are based on glass and iron which gleam in the sun, but give you the impression that you are living on another planet and make up for the fact that we in the west are working and living like machines, because that is how we have developed and modernised our lives, all simplicity has been removed there is no feeling of belonging left to the structures in which we design and live in. There is little harmony and it appears to be a shell we live in not a home based on all aspects of life.
Air conditioning - wind catchers ( Badgir )
In the province of Kerman where the Arg-e-bam is situated, is where the first form of natural air conditioning was invented.
The Persians were brilliant architects and designers. They designed and built using the conditions of their natural environment to their advantage. In the desert region of Kerman, the days are very hot, and the nights become very cool, sometimes actually cold.
Architects designed a way to use natural resources as a coolant agent. They did this by building towers on the buildings, so intricate and yet so simple, but able to catch the slightest breeze in the tower, which would then be passed through a channel up through ducts holding water, as the air passes over the water, it is cooled and by this process, a constant passage of cool air is blown through the building.
The towers are square in shape a few meters higher than the actual roof. Each tower is open on all sides and is connected by shafts to each level of the building. Depending on the size of the building, the number towers and shafts would vary.
Wind catchers have been used since approximately 1300B.C.
This is a typical house in the province of Kerman. It is made from brick and stucco. On the roof of the building the air shaft can be seen. These shafts were invented by ancient Persians to act as air conditioning.
(Argument as to whether this form of air conditioning could be implemented in buildings today to reduce fuel consumption and also be ego friendly ?)
Yakchal - ICE HOUSES: 6( would these be viable / ego friendly ? )
An Ice making building (yakchall) near Kerman, these have been used for seven centuries and are still being used in Iran today. It is an ancient and the first form of refrigerator.
The ancient Iranians designed these buildings so that they could have ice in the hot summers. The Yakchal was a large underground space, which could be up to 5000 cubic meters, with the thickness of the walls being a minimum of 2 meters at the base. They were made from a mixture of sand, clay, egg whites, lime, goat hair and ash, there was a special recipe to make this mortar which was called "sarooj". The good thing about this was that it was heat resistant. It was also waterproof. The building also had wind towers which would enable the control of the temperature.
Ab anbar of Sardar-i Bozorg, in Qazvin, is the largest single domed ab anbar in Iran.
This was a form of reservoir for drinking water and ice making. In Ghazvin Ab Anbars were not cylindrical as in Kerman, but rectangular in shape. The under cover reservoir enabled the town to have cold, uncontaminated drinking water during the summer, as there was no evaporation during the hot summer months.
The yakchals and ab anbars were filled from under water streams or canals called ganats. These are constructed in a very inventive way.
Interior spaces in Persian architecture optimise the use of techniques for regulating light, temperature and heat.
As we are looking for ways to stop global warming and CO2 emissions, cheaper housing and a greener way of life, it becomes more apparent that we need to take a step back in time and start looking at old construction technologies.
This does not mean that we should be living in shacks or mud huts! we can still build modern sustainable buildings using old techniques, but implementing new eco friendly techniques alongside the old methods of building.
As mentioned before in the articles about building methods and buildings in Iran, the sustainability of these is proven, as they are still standing today after being built hundreds of years ago.
There are various natural building techniques which have been used for hundreds of years; even recycled materials can be used for construction.
The techniques available which I will discuss in depth cover, flooring, foundations, walls, ceilings, roofs and interior design. These methods can be used to produce exquisite homes. Interior design is much more flexible, as, some of the techniques provide us with the ability to mould rather than pre construct and fit using synthetic materials.
Cob is made up of earth, sand and clay mixed with straw. This produces a thick mud which can be moulded. This is then made into brick like shapes, which are easy to trim to size as a structure is being built. Cob produces good insulation, it can also be used alongside other methods of natural building. Cob has been proven to be extremely durable. By using cob we can bring new dimensions to interior design.
Cob can be used to transform an interior space into an earthen wonderland.
Doors can be arched out, making them look like branches.
Windows can be rounded to create a hobbit like hut.Â
Inside and outside corners can be curved with cob.
Trees can be sculpted directly on the walls or corners.
Decorative shelves can be made.
Nooks for candles or sacred objects.
Cob benches can be built in a mud room.
Cob art can be sculpted on the wall.
Cob as seen in the images is decorative, flexible and cheap. Anything built from cob is made to dimensions required and to any shape or form. Most of the benches are made with a fire in them which not only heats the seating to a certain extent, but can also provide an outdoor oven which can be used for cooking and heating, this idea can also be used in the interior of a building.
If we look at the savings which could be made when using this natural method of construction, it could be enormous. We wouldn't have to buy furniture as tables, chairs, beds, cupboards and other forms of furnishings could all be moulded and built into the house. Of course other natural materials could be implemented into the structure, but this is just giving a small insight into the flexibility and economics of natural building.