Monday, March 21, 2011

Golestan Palace

Golestan Palace is the former royal Qajar complex in Iran's capital city and is located in Arq Square in Tehran. The oldest of the historic monuments in Tehran, the Golestan Palace belongs to a group of royal buildings that were once enclosed within the mud-thatched walls of Tehran’s Historic Citadel.

The Citadel was built during the reign of Tahmasp I (1524-1576) of the Safavid dynasty, and was later renovated by Karim Khan Zand (1750-1779). Once Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar (1742–1797) chose Tehran as his capital, the Court and Golestan Palace became the official residence of the royal Qajar family, in particular during and following the reign of Fath Ali Shah. The Palace was rebuilt to its current form in 1865 by Haji Abolhasan Mimar Navai.

During the Qajar era, the Palace witnessed unity and continuity in building construction. In between 1925 and 1945 a large portion of the buildings of the Palace were destroyed on the orders of Reza Shah who believed that the centuries old Qajar Palace should not hinder the growth of a modern city. In the place of the old buildings modern 1950s and 1960s style commercial buildings were erected. In its present state, Golestan Palace is the result of roughly 400 years construction and renovations.

During the Pahlavi era Golestan Palace was used for formal royal receptions and the Pahlavi dynasty built their own palace at Niavaran. The most important ceremonies held in the Palace during the Pahlavi era were the coronations of both Reza Shah and his son Mohammad Reza Shah.

The Golestan Palace has beautiful architecture, magnificent architectural decorations, and each monument inside the Palace has its own unique history. The palace also contains many rare objects. A breakdown of the various portions of the complex is as follows:

Shams-ol-Emareh (Edifice of the Sun) is a stunning structure on the eastern wing of the Golestan Palace. The idea of building a tall structure came to Nasereddin Shah before his first European and from pictorial images of European buildings. The Monarch wanted a structure from which he could have panoramic views of the city. Construction on the Shams-ol-Emareh began in 1865 and was completed two years later. The building has two identical towers. The exterior views have multiple arches, intricate tile work and ornate windows. This building is a fusion of Persian and European architecture

Emarat Badgir (Building of the Wind Towers) sits on the southern wing of the Complex and was constructed during the reign of Fath Ali Shah (circa 1806). The building underwent major renovations, including structural changes, during the reign of Nasereddin Shah. The building is flanked by two rooms known as gooshvareh (earrings). There is a central room on the lower level which boasts the finest stained glass window in Golestan Palace. Outside, there are four wind towers of blue, yellow and black glazed tiles and a golden cupola. The wind towers, along with a pool and subterranean stream (ghanat) were constructed to allow the cooling wind to move through the structure, although with the construction of the Tehran subway system, the flow of water had to be stopped.

Chador Khaneh (House of Tents) is located between the Wind Towers and Almas Hall and was used as a warehouse for royal tents. The Qajar tribe loved the great outdoors and made several royal camping trips each year and many tents were needed to accommodate the entourage. The Chador Khaneh has undergone major renovations and is now used as a meeting and lecture hall.

Talar’e Almas (Hall of Diamonds) is located in the southern wing of Golestan Palace next to the Wind Towers. It is called Hall of Diamonds because of the exceptional mirror work inside the building.

Completed in 1883, the Abyaz (White) Palace houses one of the most interesting ethological museums in Iran. There is a colorful exhibition of tradition Iranian costumes, as well as a folk art exhibition. The Ottoman king, Sultan Abdolhamid, sent precious gifts to Nasereddin Shah and reportedly the Qajar monarch was so delighted with these gifts that he decided to build an exhibit hall worthy of these gifts within the confines of the Golestan Palace. It receives its name due to the white color of its exterior walls.

The spectacular terrace known as Takht’e Marmar (Marble Throne) was furnished in 1806 by order of Fath Ali Shah with a marble throne. Adorned by paintings, marble-carvings, tile-work, stucco, mirrors, enamel, woodcarvings, and lattice windows, the throne embodies the finest of Iranian architecture. The Marble Throne is one of the oldest buildings of the historic Citadel and appears to be built during the reign of Karim Khan. It gets its name from the existing throne, which is situated in the middle of the terrace, is made of sixty-five pieces of the famous yellow marble of Yazd. Coronations of Qajar Kings, and formal court ceremonies were held on this terrace. The last coronation to be held at Takht’e Marmar was the coronation of Reza Shah in 1925.

Dating back to 1759, Khalvat’e Karim Khani was a part of the interior residence of Karim Khan Zand. The basic structure of the Khalvat’e-Karim Khani is similar to Takht’e Marmar in that it is a terrace (although much smaller and less ornated) containing a marble throne inside. There was once a small pond with a fountain in the middle of this terrace. It is believed that after overthrowing the Zand Dynasty, Agha Mohammad Khan retrieved Karim Khan’s bones from Shiraz and buried them under the steps here so as to walk over them on a continuous basis. Nasereddin Shah was fond of this corner of Golestan Palace and is said to have spent much time here in rest, smoking his water. After being misplaced for sometime, his marble tombstone displaying his image has found its way to this quite corner of the Palace.

Talar’e Salam was originally designed to be a museum, however, later on this Hall was designated to hold special receptions in the presence of the King. This Hall has exquisite mirror work, the ceiling and walls are decorated with plaster molding and the floors are covered with mosaic. The space underneath Salam Hall was used as a warehouse for the china and silverware dedicated to the Qajar Kings. In the Pahlavi period, this warehouse was turned in to a museum to display these items. In addition to the gifts, some rare objects are kept in this museum, some of them are the Helmet of King Esmail Safavid, the bow and arrows of Nader Shah, the armband of Fath Ali Shah, the collection of Qajar seals, Agha Mohammad Khan’s crown and a decorated ostrich egg.

Talar’e Zoroof replaced Narenjestan building. All the chinaware that was dedicated to Qajar Kings by the European Kings was taken to this room and was arranged in show cases which were built for this purpose. Some rare chinaware that exists in this room include: The chinaware that shows the Napoleonian wars dedicated by Napoleon the first, a chinaware dedicated by King Nicoli the first, Chinaware studded with gems and jewels dedicated by Queen Victoria, a chinaware which was dedicated by King Vilhelm to the Iranian Crown Prince and a set made by Melacit stone dedicated by Alexander the third.

Talar’e Ayneh (Hall of Mirrors) is the most famous part of the Palace hall and is located over the stone terrace in front of the lobby of the Palace. This relatively small hall is famous for its extraordinary mirror work. It was famously depicted in a painting by Kamal-ol-Molk, although its portrayal gives it much larger dimensions than its actual size.

Talar’e Aj (Hall of Ivory) is a large hall used as a dinning room located west of Brilliant Hall and above Howz Khaneh. It was decorated with gifts presented to Nasereddin Shah by European monarchs.

Aks Khaneh (House of Photographs) and Howz Khaneh (House of Ponds) are summer chambers utilizing a cooling system that pumped water from a qanat into a small pond. The system was designed to pass through as many summer rooms as was necessary. The water was then channeled outside to irrigate the royal gardens. Aks Khaneh has undergone major renovations and is now used as an exhibition space for photographs of the Qajar period.

Talar’e Berelian (Hall of Brilliance) named after the brilliant mirror works of Iranian artisans. The Hall was built by Nasereddin Shah build to replace another hall called Talar Boloor (Crystal Hall). The Berelian Hall is famous for its mirror work and chandeliers.

Emarat’e Khabgah (Siesta House) was built in northeastern corner of the Complex as the residence of Queen Elizabeth II during her short visit to Iran in 1955 and is the most recent addition to Golestan Palace. The building is designated to house the Royal Manuscripts Library and the Qajar photograph collection.

Golestan Palace is currently operated by the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran. On October 11, 2005 the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran submitted the palace to the UNESCO for inclusion into the World Heritage List in 2007.