Typology of Recognizing the Religious Elements in Iranian Towns with a Holy Shrine

Document Type : Original Article



Recognition of the main urban elements, especially the holy monuments, has altered the image of the Iranian cities over different architectural as well as urban styles. Facade, height, and the position of the buildings are among the most substantial ways used to make the Iranian cities recognizable in the past. Although there have been a variety of architectural styles in the annals of urbanization in Iran, they can mostly be separated into four groups according to Pirnia’s book: Khorasani, Razi, Azeri, and Isfahani. He also describes each of them in more detail and enumerates their considerable characteristics. In short, embellishments, forms, and plans are the most important defining characteristics of each style in most cities. However, in each period (style), some of the buildings with specific activities have been distinguished and recognized. In the past, buildings such as mosques, bazaars, monasteries, bathhouses, reservoirs, schools, and citadels were among the defining elements of the Iranian cities. Nowadays, they are displaced by political, administrative, commercial, and sometimes residential as well as religious buildings. In fact, choosing to attach more importance to a specific building is rooted in the beliefs and ideas of the governors or the builders. Among all the urban activities, recognition of the religious buildings has always been in dispute and the subject of heated debates. In this research, it is strived to find the typology of recognition of the main buildings in city centers, especially the religious ones, in order to offer the potential to provide an improved set of recommendations for the contemporary urban design. In this day and age, identity is the subject of heated debates among the architects and urban planners. Without a doubt, one of the most important and considerable manifestations of human culture is city. However, in Iran, due to the Iranian beliefs, the identity of cities is mainly displayed in public spaces and buildings. Thus, it can be argued that the study of these places –e.g. bazaars, religious buildings and etc. – is of utmost importance. From a different point of view, the lack of richness of the most contemporary cities, which threatens the environmental sustainability, is another matter that necessitates such studies. Duplicating previous architectural and urban patterns per se, nonetheless, cannot secure the success of the urban plans; rather they should be used as the basis for design. This study strives to provide such a framework. To this end, it, initially, tries to distinguish different types of recognition of special elements in the image of the cities using a phenomenological approach from theory to practice. Then, it attempts to assess them by utilizing the theoretical and cultural criteria. Aesthetics, identity, urban morphology, and city signs are among the most important subjects having been reviewed in this article. According to the results of the previous researches, two types of recognition of the urban image can be distinguished. The first type is need-oriented (functionalism). It attaches more importance to the emergence and recognition of buildings in plans and does not pay much attention to the aesthetic preferences. This type of recognition was more common in the earlier periods of the Iranian civilization (Khorasani Style) such as the city center of Naeen. On the other hand, the emphasis of the second type is on the aesthetic recognition of the buildings, especially the religious ones. Cities which belong to this type lasted two periods of conflicting identities. Sufis and different tendencies of Sunnite, in Razi and Azari periods, chiefly emphasized the importance of monasteryoriented and mosque-oriented trends. This evolution in the Safavid period reached the point where the balance between these trends was achieved. However, in the periods of urban aestheticism (Azeri Style) there were several patterns for recognition of cities’ religious elements. In this essay, we study two of them. Regarding the results of this research, since Azeri period, two primary patterns of recognition in images of tomb-towns have been noticeable: the Tomb-oriented pattern in which tomb is the indicator element of cities (e.g. Bastam, Natanz and Rey), and Mosque oriented pattern in which the new and clearly recognizable mosques are built next to the ancient tomb (e.g. Mashhad and Qom). The latter is an effort to emphasize the sacred atmosphere of the cities. Because of the importance of Mashhad and Qom, tomb-towns, their pattern is promoted in Iran and some other countries.


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