Architcetural renovation in the Qajar Period

With the fall of the Safavids at the hand of the invading Afghans, Persian art lost most of its vitality and splendor. Aqa Mohmmad Khan Qajar was the first Iranian ruler after Nadir Shah, who initiated a program for the renovation and reconstruction of a number of historic monuments including Takht-e Shiraz and Sakhteman-e Karim Khan in Isfahan. The selection of Tehran as the capital city highlighted its infrastructural shortcomings and chaotic architectural design. However, Fath ‘Ali Shah embarked upon a vast construction program for the city. Within the royal citadel at the heart of Tehran, he ordered the construction of a number of residential and official buildings. Deeply interested in country life, he also built royal palaces outside main urban areas. A number of well designed bazaars, schools, public bathhouses and mosques were also constructed by members of nobility and Qajar princes in a number of Iranian cities. Among these, the most prominent religious structure is Tehran’s Masjed-e Shah [King’s Mosque]. However, with Iran’s second and decisive defeat by Russian forces and the loss of north-western territories, Fath ‘Ali shah also lost his zeal for architectural upgrading of Iranian cities.

With Nasir al-Din Shah’s ascent to the throne and the appointment of Mirza Taqi Khan Amir Kabir as the prime minster, the second phase of innovation and reconstruction in Tehran, whose population had increased considerably, got underway. The establishment of Dar al-Fonun, and expanded contact with European countries, the process was further accelerated. New streets and large squares, royal palaces, hospitals, horse-driven railroad wagons which presented a melange of western and traditional Iranian features transformed Tehran’s architectural scene.

Reza Moghtader
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