The Persian Renaissance: From the Timurids to Safavids

  • The Seljuks enriched the local building traditions with new programs, including the demand for more articulated public spaces and more prominent funerary monuments. Their broad, iwan shaded courts and massive cupolas provided models for later nomadic conquers.
  • During the 13th century Cenghiz Khan swept through the entire region of central Asia, destroying much of the architectural patrimony of cities such as Baghdad and Samarkand.
  • Once settled and committed to Islam, the dynasties such as the Timruds, the Safavids and the Mughals sponsored large cities with magnificent gateways, places, formal gardens and funerary cupolas of colossal dimensions.
  • While the Timruds borrowed directly from the Persians, using Persian designers and craftspeople for their monumental projects, the Safavid dynasty in Iran, which claimed genuine Persian origins, tried to keep pace with the monumental achievements of the invaders from the north.
  • The addition of Ishafan included the new imperial palace, a vast maydan, at the end of which were the shah’s mosque, the two covered bridges and a garden district for the palaces of the aristocracy.
  • The urban renewal by reforming the center of Isfahan, enlarging the old Maydan next to the Masjid-i Jami or Great Friday Mosque. Additions to the Great Mosque, its court was framed by four iwans articulated with abnormally large mquarnas. The numerous additions to the mosque’s edges pushed outward, making its external contours completely irregular.
  • The new palace Naqsh-i Jahan, the map of the world, consisted of a series of geometric gardens in a walled compound nearly as large as the existing city.
  • The Chihil Sutun or Hall of Forty Columns, the porch rose on twenty three story wooden columns, recalling the lofty hypotyle halls of ancient Persepolis.
  • The Hasht Bihist or Hallof Eight Paradises followed the nine square grid with octogonal rooms at the corner and square rooms in between looking onto a central double height domed hall.
  • The major entry into the Ali Qapu palace rose six stories with an elongated upper loggia looking over the New Maydan, taken to the top floor the music room., a grand hall capped with folded muqarnas made of wood and papier mache.
  • The sequence of fountains and geometrically planted trees on either side of the magnificent new Si-o-se Pol Bridge of thirty three arches. Smaller interconnected chambers lined the bridge providing a shaded pedestrian path.
  • The great square imposed such dominant geometric order that both of the new nosques were forced to rotate 45° to respect the southwest qibla.
  • The pishtaq entry rose above the two level arcades to either side and looked directly across the Ali Qapu Gate. The enrty sequence resembled a labyrnth in plan, skirting the dome on a diagonal and making two right angle turns in order to enter the dome prayer hall facing the qibla.
  • Masjid-i Shah Mosque, the pishtaq entry porch appeared like a triumphal gate, its iwan pushing deep into a five sided cove, sheltering a refreshing octagonal pool. Two minarets accentuated its verticality. The axis shifted diagonally as it penetrated the mosque’s rectangular sahn, each side of which had a central pishtaq flaned by two story porticoes.

The Mughal Empire: Islam Tinged with Indian Diversity

  • The Mughal dynasty in India experienced a parallel history to the Safavids in Iran between the early 16th and the mid 18th centuries.
  • Persian architectural models amd motifs infiltrated India, where they mixed with the strong traditions of both Hindu and Islamic precedents.
  • Fatehpur Sikri, a permanent imperial setting, the town layout roughly fit into a rectangle, bordered on three sides by fortifications. The streets and buildings below the hill ran o a northeast-southwest grid, diagonal to the upper precinct.
  • The white marble dome of the Mausoleum of Shaykh Salim sat at the religious core of Fatehpur Sikri, in the court of the Great Mosque. Perforated marble screen, jalis, graced its elevations, giving the interiors a golden glow of mottled light. Its formidable pishtaq rose at the summit of a pyramidal set of red sandstone stairs, looking like a triumphal arch with white marble inscriptions quoting the Quran.
  • The Great Mosque opened to the court with a rhythmic series of rches set at alternating widths. In the center the pishtaq, with its graceful Persian arched iwan, concealed the central of three domes.
  • Each of the palace’s individual parts obeyed perfect symmetry while being distributed diagonally as a series of broad terraces in staggered positions.
  • On the courtyard side, this platform overlooked the Anup Talao pool, a square tank with four cross-axial bridges leading to a central island platform.
  • North of this terrace, a slightly lower terrace served an exceptional structure, the Diwan-i Khas, a cubic two story volume capped with tall chhatris that accentuated each corner and ornate Hindu style brackets supporting the balconies.
  • Taj Mahal’s entry gate presented a grand pishtaq built in red sandstone and decorated with white marble intarsia. Its iwan framed a view of the dome in the distance and opened to a conventional chahar bagh garden. The four cross axial chnnels met at a central square fountain that caught reflections of the dome. At the end o the north-south axis, set on a solid white plinth, the marble clad mausoleum loomed above the garden.Four cylindrical minarets held down the corners of the plinth. The plan of the ground floor revealed to have more wall poche than voids. While Taj Mahal appeared to be a solid stone structure, it was built entirely in brick and then clad in smooth, almost seamless, gray veined white marble.
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