I went to a lecture about Iranian Architecture for AD Magazine’s launch of issue #217. Our friend, Amin Sadeghy, was a contributing author and speaker. One of the things I found most fascinating about Iranian architecture was not the new wild shapes defining a new middle-east, but the natural eco-efficiency of the ancient Iranian architecture. In a climate that frequently reaches 48˚Celsius (120˚F) with little or no natural shade from the sun, architecture demands function to create a liveable environment. Countering today’s proposals for wild shapes and showy designs, ancient Iranian architecture was an architecture of necessity.
To combat the heat, they cleverly used the wind. Orienting their structures towards the wind, they channeled water to pool directly in front of the structure. When the wind hit the water, evaporating water was blown into the structures, naturally cooling the interiors and providing much needed ventilation. Outside, the temperatures would approach 48˚C and inside was a more comfortable 32˚C. And these cooling properties are found in buildings built by hand, without machines or electricity. Just open-air.
The ancient Persians also managed to use architecture to produce ice, constructing massive ice houses (Yakhchals) which utilised thick walls and wind tunnels to bring temperatures low enough to produce ice.
It just got me thinking… all these green innovations we see popularized in architectural publications today were used regularly for hundreds of years when extreme climates demanded it. It’s like green architecture is now just doing damage control for our wild shapes, excessive use of glass, and inefficient electricity use. I would love to see a gorgeous modern building using the knowledge from the ancient Persians to add to it’s beauty, rather than over-designing just to compensate for our ecologically unfriendly wild designs.
Now… should I bring up the indoor-ski slope in Dubai? Na.
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