Iranian Heritage in Danger (VII): Persian gardens

This post intends to focus on Persian Garden. Over half of Iran is desert and there is an ancient tradition of making gardens which provide relief from the extremes of the climate – summer heat and winter cold. The ancient Persians, who were of nomadic origin, made encampment gardens of a character very different to those of the Roman Empire. The best and oldest example is at Pasargadae. It dates back to 550 BC and was made in an oasis ringed by hills. The word ‘paradise’, from the Old Persian, Pardeiza, meaning an ‘a wall around’ describes an enclosed space. In origin it was probably a walled or fenced hunting park, used to make collections of exotic plants, animals and trees. 

Pasargadae was the first capital of the Achaemenid Empire. To garden historians it is of particular interest because of the rectangular pattern of stone-lined watercourses. This type of garden became known as chaharbagh. But later there is no evidence of the word being used in Achaemenid times.

On the one hand, the pairidaeza gardens with its special symbols (land, water, planets and wind, Persian palace), are ideal places to rejuvenate the spirit. They are a meeting place for all elements of the spiritual and material creation. One of the functions of building Persian gardens was as a way of escaping from the harsher landscapes. On the other hand, by religious view, Persian architectural designs try to portray Jannat (Behesht) by displaying the characteristics of heaven, that is in confirm with characteristics of it, about remember the image of future paradise and they try that all beauties and benefit of fruit in several area and in all seasons of the year provided a close ecosystem and free from environment, and this image of heaven considers trees, fruits, flowers, everlasting trees, water, also their beauties and benefits.

Nine Persian Gardens were inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage list in 2011 and registered in Iran's 20th cultural heritage site to be on the United Nations' list:
(Ancient Garden of Pasargadae, Eram Garden of Shiraz, Chehel Sutun Garden of Isfahan, Fin Garden of Kashan, Abbas Abad Garden of Behshahr, Shazdeh Garden of Kerman, Dolat Abad Garden of Yazd, Pahlavan Pour Garden of Mehriz, Akbariyeh Garden of Birjand)

The Persian Garden represents a masterpiece of human creative genius. The design of the Persian Garden, based on the right angle and geometrical proportions, is often divided into four sections known as ChaharBagh (Four Gardens). The creation of the Persian Garden was made possible due to intelligent and innovative engineering solutions and a sophisticated water-management system. The Persian Garden, through its components, has developed alongside the evolution of the Persian society, while adhering to its early geometric model.

The Persian Garden bears especial, unique and exceptionally complete example of the cultural traditions that have evolved in Iran and the Middle East over some two and a half millennia. Throughout its evolution, the Persian Garden has played a crucial role in various cultural, religious and social aspects of society. The Persian Garden is directly associated with cultural developments of outstanding universal value.

So the Persian Garden is an outstanding example of a type of garden design achieved by utilizing natural and human elements and integrating significant achievements of Persian culture.

Todays these place grapples with some problems which are listed as below:

Iranian cultural heritages especial natural sites are at risk due to several factors. The most common deteriorating agents, including climatic factors, air pollution (mainly in major urban areas), and biological mechanisms, are constantly damaging cultural heritages. However, there are other agents, which have more critical and determining effects, including natural disasters and especially earthquakes and floods that are major elements of destruction. In fact, in our history and also quite recently, a number of towns, heritages, scarce birds or planets and historical sites have been partially destroyed due to this natural factor. Other factors causing deterioration include:

  • Illicit excavations in palace of gardens and smuggling of valuable objects of gardens. 
  • Rapid urbanization due to population growth and development of cities. 
  • Lack of proper planning and standards for restoring and rehabilitating these especial sites, additionally; lack of human resources in maintaining is another problem because of lack of adjusting budget by government. Changing the attitude of government and citizens towards gardens, and differences of them with nation parks, vitally needed by holding some exhibitions to show the positive atmosphere of gardens and value of them. 
  • Non-implementation of existing norms and regulations of using these public sites. 
  • The Impact of War. 
  • Although the technology is changing the world and there are many different kinds of national parks, Gardens atmosphere attracts so many visitors and archaeologists to the area from all over the world. But some mismanagement in tourism industry makes some irreparable damages to this space that comes from the ignorance of local and international tourists. They damage sites by excavating planets, engraving on trees and destroying some parts of structure. Some tourists throw out rubbish on the pond and little pool, it is bind the way of channels and basin. 

All in all, The harsh situation imposed by mentioned factors have resulted in national reorganization and planning for various short- and long-term programs in order to mitigate the potential risks of future disasters. These initiatives can be summarized as follows:

  • Construction of proper shelters or using the palace of gardens for museum collections of rituals, traditions and heritages in various parts of the gardens and organization of joint training and field programs and launch of comprehensive surveys for the documentation of heritage in order to plan a long-term strategy for protection against future intrusions. 
  • Organization of regular national conferences on conservation and restoration of cultural heritage, holding academic workshop as well as on the history of architecture, agriculture and urbanization in gardens space to show the potential of designed space, rare planets and other beauty of Persian gardens. 
  • Promotion and development of academic education in the conservation of cultural heritage. (EAT) to recording number of available garden (ChaharBagh) in the country side of each city. 
  • Strengthening scientific relations with overseas institutions and establishment of national committees of ICOMOS and ICOM. Active implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention through a national committee, training of armed forces, and the removal of several military barracks from the vicinities of historic sites and especially gardens. 
  • Providing infrastructures such as Tourist Information, public transportations, restaurants, hotels and tourist basic needs can increase tourists in that area. 
  • Conserving historical and natural sites should be one area of government's priority of the countries all around the world. Efforts directed to the restoration of attributes that demonstrate authenticity must be pursued. Government, citizens and tourists should be jointly responsible to protect world heritage. The components of the whole management plan are slightly satisfactory, but they need to be improved in terms of the interpretation of the sites and the involvement of the local population.

Iranian Heritage in Danger is a post series by UCM doctoral student Ghazal Nouri.


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