Islamic Area Studies, Group 5a
A Report on the 4th Seminar

Urban Space and Architectural Culture
in the Middle East


Date: Saturday May 20

Place: Institute of Oriental Culture, The University of Tokyo

Aquatic-spatial Organization and the Role of Qanat Waterways in Iranian Architecture: A Consideration of Elements and Layout


In this report the concept of Iranian urban spaces being labyrinthian was challenged through examining the use of water as axes in Iranian gardens. First, the placement of waterways, waterbasins, fountains, kiosks, iwans, talars, domes, niches, mihrabs, paths, and trees in 26 similar rectangular enclosures was examined, whereapon four basic patterns were abstracted. Next, on studying 19 combinations of similar rectangular spatial units, it was established that combinations were arranged as a rule in parallel and orthogonal forms. The cities of Yazd and Isfahan demonstrate how multiple layers of orthogonal grids were constructed above underlying qanat-waterways, thus resulting in organic city structures. From the above, it was concluded that spatial design in Iran, from individual structures to entire cities, is based on aquatic lines in parallel and orthogonal arrangements. It is also worth noting that all angles noted in the study measured 90, 45, 36, 18, or 9 degrees, in multiples of 9.


The Tiles of Kirman

by ABE Katsuhiko


ABE discussed the exceptional tilework surviving in Masjd-i Jami' and Masjid-i Malik. The theory was examined that these blue and white tiles, occassionally including touches of red, were of the distinct kind produced in kilns of Kirmanese workshops during the Safavid period. The following points were considered: Though the actual remains found in kilns have yet to be verified, documents from 17century Europe repeatedly refer to Kirman as a production site for superior-quality tiles. On comparing the tiles of mosques in Kirman and porcelain preserved in the museum (a blue and white porcelain tombstone dating from the 1640ユs and Safavid dynasty porcelain ware) both feature motifs bearing a striking resemblance to Ming-period Chinese porcelain. Also, porcelain ware of defective quality, due to failure in the glazing process, was retrieved from an abandoned building within the city. Similarities are also acknowledged between the retrieved samples and stucco decorations and tiles adorning the cistern and hammam of the Ganjali Khan, founded early 17th Century in Kirman.



Chinese / Mongolian and Iranian Elements in Ilkhanid Palatial Architecture

by MASUYA Tomoko


The Takht-i Sulaiman was reconstructed to serve as the summer palace for Abaqa, the second Khan of the Ilkhanid Dynasty. In this report, MASUYA idenitified the Iranian, Mongolian and Chinese elements of the structure from the viewpoint of the relationship between the Ilkhanid dynasty and the Great Khan of Mongolia.

A reuse of the Sasanian architecture, the structure's main gate is situated on the central axis. This feature as well as the 4 Iwan style comprise the Iranian elements.The octagonal shape of the pavilion, which is an inheritance from nomadic tents, and the dispersed palace layout make up the Mongolian element. Such Mongolian elements (nomadic planning) spread to Yuan, Shandu and Dadu as well.

With regard to architectural decorations, the wide variety of decorative tiles render the Takht-i Sulaiman unique. In particular the inglaze lajvardina technique, which is the transitory phase to the lajvardina technique, deserves special notice. The tiles contain Iranian decorative elements such as poetry and passages drawn from the Iranian classics. The Mongolian element is found in the frequent use of blue, the sacred color for the Mongols, and the various animal figures, including the dragon and phoenix, reflect Chinese folklore.

The Takht-i Sulaiman played an influential role in the history of Iranian art. Polygonal pavilions, the extensive use of blue in tilework, and illustrations of Chinese dragons and phoenixes became lasting features of Iranian design subsequent to its construction. At the end of the report, MASUYA pointed out the deteriorating conditions of the site and the need for its restoration.