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Kashan Architecture

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Iran City Guides - Kashan

Traditional Architecture In Kashan

Khune Ehsan Courtyard, Kashan, Iran.
  • ancient oasis city dating from 4th century BCE
  • population around 270,000 (2005 estimate)
  • beautiful examples of desert architecture
  • situated about 228km south of Tehran on the Kerman-Qom road
  • historic houses centered on Alavi Street
  • Kashan known for its carpet manufacture

Traditional Architecture In Kashan

The beauty of Kashan's architecture is in how it relates to its surroundings. Mountains create a natural boundary on one side of the city, the desert flanks the other.

The famous traditional architecture of the city is a direct result of thousands of years of adaptation to the dry desert summers.

Badgir (wind-catcher)

The most eye-catching feature of Iranian desert architecture is the badgir. These are square towers which rise a few metres above the roof of the house. Each face of the badgir opens into a separate chimney-like air shaft which leads right down to the lowest level of the house.

Borujerdi badgir and dome, Kashan.

The slightest air movement in any direction is caught by the tower's openings and is funnelled around ducts which run behind the walls. These ducts also double-up as water channels so the air passes over cool running water before passing in through vents in the walls.

Houses For All Seasons In Kashan

Khune Ehsan Courtyard At Night, Kashan.

Traditional homes in Iranian desert towns are usually built around a central courtyard with windows, doors, arches and other architectural features facing in, rather than out.

Traditionally, activities in the house change location with the seasons.

Five door stained glass, Kashan.

In winter, the family would gather in the south-facing side of the house which has larger windows to make the best of the winter light. Then in summer, more activities would take place in the north-facing side where the windows were smaller.

Height and depth are also put to good use. On a flat, open desert plain, the only place to escape from the sun is to go underground and so traditional Kashani houses are typically built on four levels, two of which are below ground. On both sides of the courtyard steep steps lead down to a sardab which is kept cool by permanent shade and fresh breezes wafting through vents in the walls. The difference in temperature is just as if you had walked into an air-conditioned room.

One level deeper still is the kande (dug-out) which is a small chamber cut from the very earthen foundations of the house. This room makes the perfect natural refrigerator.

By taking the trouble to harness wind and water the architects of Kashan built air-conditioning systems without the benefit of electricity and plumbing without the aid of pipes. Sadly, these days, with the perceived benefits of technology, little importance is given to the old, organic ways. Take a walk along the rooftops of the bazaar and you'll see many old houses that are rapidly returning to the dust from which they came.

A small number of traditional Kashani houses have been restored and opened so that the public can see their ingenuity. After visiting them you wonder why the whole city can't return to the elegance of the old ways.

Sardab basement cellar, Kashan.

Historical Houses in Kashan

Khane-ye Abbasian

Khane-ye Ameriha

Khane-ye Borujerdi

Khane-ye Tabatabai

Khane-ye Taj

Stay in a Traditional-style Hotel

Khane-ye Ehsan

Access - how to get to Kashan

There are trains to Esfahan (4 hours), Tehran (3 and a half hours), Yazd (6 hours), Kerman (10 hours) and Bandar-e Abbas (19 hours). The train station in Kashan is north of the city center.
Buses run to many destinations including Qom (2 hours), Tehran (3 and a half hours), Esfahan (4 hours) and Yazd. The bus station is on Molla Sadra Boulevard.

Will Yong

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