Tourist Attractions

Vernacular Structures of Iran

Vernacular structure refers to the structures constructed by the people living in a locality. It is also called architecture without architect.

The common factors creating the vernacular architecture in Iranian plateau are climate and accessible constructional materials. The prevailing climate in the region is harshly hot or cold. Most of the time, it is also extremely dry with desert soil covering the major part of lands. Generally, rainfall is not enough and earthquakes have always been potential threats. Mud and brick are major materials used for constructing various structures, because the earth can be found everywhere quite easily and inexpensively.

Ceilings are mostly built in the form of cupolas and vaults, walls are usually thick and windows have to be made in small sizes. The reasons should be sought in the common factors mentioned and explained before.

In addition to the general features of architecture in the Iranian plateau, there are special structures built that need to be referred here:

Pigeon Towers

Vernacular Architecture: Pigeon Tower
Pigeon Tower

The purpose of building such towers had merely been collecting pigeons’ excrement to be used as fertilizer or as an ingredient for producing gunpowder.

The main issue was to build as many pigeon nests inside as possible with the least materials.

The architecture of these seemingly simple structures was not void of art and calculations although economic consideration should have been taken.




Vernacular Architecture: Ice House

Icehouses were built for reserving snow and ice for summer use. Supplying ice in the plateau had been very hard. Warm season was long and cold season short. Drinkable water was not enough. Snow-covered mountains were not available everywhere. The difference in altitude made it even harder to carry snow down to low areas.

A ditch, a wall and a thick storage structure were the intelligent solution to supply and reserve ice for later use.

There were some technical and cultural aspects involved as well, like any other structures, which are quite interesting.


Water Reservoirs

Water Reservoir in Yazd
Water Reservoir

To efficiently collect and reserve water has never been any possible task to do unless a great amount of experience has been gained throughout centuries. Supplying water by kariz (qanat), man-made subterranean aqueduct system, has been common in ancient Iran. Water supplied in this way must be kept in an appropriate structure, a water reservoir.

Water reservoir is a deep circular insulated pit covered by a dome and accessed by a stairway leading down to its entrance. A barrel-vaulted ceiling covered this stairway.

Water could be kept cool and clean with the help of some local techniques.

Wind Tower (Wind Catcher)

Wind Catcher at Aqda
Wind Tower

I should explain that wind catcher is one of the most famous and spectacular elements in pure Iranian architecture. It is a chimney-like structure usually erected in couples from the bottom of houses or water reservoirs up to an elevation a little higher than its roof. They work like a ventilation system bringing the temperature of inside houses or water reservoirs around 20 C lower than outside.

Unfortunately, vernacular structures in Iran are subject to destruction for some reasons. But, one can still see a great number of them that are indicative of people?s need and interest in them.

Rahman Mehraby

Rahman Mehraby is the founder and owner of Destination Iran. He plans and customizes quality Iran tours. Also, he provides tourism marketing consultation and services for tourism businesses.

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  1. Very interesting read. I’m constantly astonished how people in ancient times created the structures they needed with the limited machinery available then

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