Mostafa Aref Haghi                            SBE0030

Written evidence from Mostafa Aref Haghi

Earthen architecture, a choice or coercion for the future destiny of the planet


I was born and raised in Iran in 1977 in Earthen architecture. A significant part of my life has been spent on brick buildings. Therefore, as someone for whom Earthen architecture is not considered fantasy and an ideal but is associated with his life, I give myself the right to talk about it without dreaming and without mental stereotypes.

After graduating from university and starting to research in architecture field, I came across cases that were fundamentally at odds with all that child's dreams in that brick house.  After some years of activating in architecture research, I was eager to apply what I have seen, experienced and learned to find a suitable answer to one or two questions from that collection of 10.

As an architect with a focus on conservation and restoration of historic buildings and urban, with 15 years of work experience, I will do my best to be able to find documentary answers to questions No. 4 and, to some extent, No. 3, and in the middle of it. Make my suggestions. To get to this point, I am interested in making a summary that shows the roots and sources of my statements. This analysis and recommendations, and to some extent my answer, originated.

Architecture with the Earth is a historical identity for every Iranian and especially every Iranian architect. The tumultuous history of the Iranian plateau has seen many political, governmental, economic, social, religious and ideological changes. In all these circumstances, it has been continuous with a solid presence in the lives and pillars of the plateau's people.  Indeed, architecture and the Earthen structures have been a significant part of the art of this plateau.

The Earth architecture, with all decisiveness, has a significant role in elements and the shaper of people's lives and has always had a robust and undeniable presence in different parts of this plateau and every house of its people. However, many of the arts of this plateau have undergone changes over the long historical period, or sometimes changed their nature or identity, or in rare cases, have become entirely extinct.

I can easily describe this historical identity so that my present generation, who are in the age range of 40, have lived and experienced in houses with brick structures, all of Iranians, whether living in the city or abroad from that in the villages to our generation, they have this experience.  This situation has led people, young and adults, to know all the literature and biological principles in such structures. They know all its terms, and even they still use now that proverbs that are prevalent among the people and folklore literature have their roots in the Earthen architecture.

This depth and breadth of the presence of brick structures, with the company of concrete and steel, began several decades ago and continues and has wholly deprived new generations of experience. In rich and well-known Persian literature and folklore, and local literature, the presence of terms, words and stories related to architecture, especially the Earth architecture, is significant and thought-provoking.

The traces of this prominent presence in the written literature can be observed in more than a thousand years. Also, more than that period can be found and studied in the existing Earth architecture evidence and the remaining monument and the oral literature. This subject is prompted me to compare literary evidence in Persian with proof in the historical architecture of Iran so that I could find a more scientific and appropriate answer to my questions. In that case, I could become more proficient in recognizing as much as possible the historically experienced potentials in the Earthen architecture and be able to present it as a suitable and accessible alternative with natural materials.


To begin with, I will start with two examples.

The Arg-e Bam (Persian: ارگ بم), located in the city of Bam, Kerman Province of southeastern Iran, is the largest adobe building in the world. The entire building was a large fortress containing the citadel, but because the citadel dominates the ruins, the entire fortress is now named Bam Citadel.

Listed by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Site "Bam and its Cultural Landscape", it can be traced back to at least the Achaemenid Empire (sixth to fourth centuries BC). On December 26, 2003, the Citadel was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake, along with much of the rest of Bam and its environs[1].

Yazd (Persian: یزد [jæzd]), formerly also known as Yazd, is the capital of Yazd Province, Iran. The city is located 270 km (170 mi) southeast of Esfahan. At the 2011 census, the population was 529,673, and it is currently the 15th largest city in Iran. Since 2017, the historical city of Yazd is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Because of generations of adaptations to its desert surroundings, Yazd has a unique Persian architecture. It is nicknamed the "City of Wind catchers" (شهر بادگیرها Shahr-e Badgirha) from its many examples.

It is also very well known for its Zoroastrian fire temples, abanbars (cisterns), qanats (underground channels), yakhchals (Ice hole), Persian handicrafts, handwoven cloth (Persian termeh), silk weaving, Persian cotton candy, and its time-honored confectioneries. Yazd is also known as City of Bicycles, because of its old history of bike riders, and the highest number of bicycles per capita in Iran. It is reported that bicycle culture in Iran originated in Yazd as a result of contact with European visitors and tourists in the last century. Yazd is an important centre of Persian architecture. Because of its climate, it has one of the largest networks of qanats (underground water supply systems) in the world, and Yazdi qanat makers are considered the most skilled in Iran.

To deal with the extremely hot summers, many old buildings in Yazd have magnificent wind towers and large underground areas. The city is also home to prime examples of yakhchals, which were used to store ice retrieved from glaciers in the nearby mountains. Yazd is also one of the largest cities built almost entirely out of Earth[2].

The largest Earthen architecture city and the largest Earthen castle in the world are in Iran, but today we see that people in Bam and Yazd do not care about building brick buildings.

All these records are mentioned in the introduction till I can ask myself why people with such a long history of using Earth architecture and the depth of its influence in their culture today turn away from it and moved to concrete and cement. Have turned? And why is there no severe plan and determination to revive that tradition and historical background in this country?

The answer to this question is the same point as my conclusion and experience with the third question; Puts in the expected location. And that answer is: Incomplete decisions of the country's macro-planning system, without observing the basic principles of macro-regional planning and not considering the role of people to inform and educate them on the one hand, and lack of detailed and basic study and attention to resources, Existing infrastructure and historical potentials based on the geographical conditions of the country, the region and the world on the other hand, for development.

The most critical and fundamental part of them was the lack of understanding of the role of people in sustainable development, which showed itself in the absence of public awareness and lack of education and raising the level of general and technical knowledge of experts by the government and macro-management system.

Yes, architecture with natural materials or architecture with clay can be an excellent alternative to replace materials in the future, but ....

1: Recognition of its physical, structural and architectural nature along with its potentials,

2: Education

3: They are creating and strengthening the motivation of life in Earth buildings

4: Awareness of the people

5: Cognitive development policies

6: Develop incentive policies

7: Materially and technically support


Earth buildings always need constant maintenance, so those who choose this structure should be trained to maintain and care for it. For this reason, the development program will not be effective if there are no training, support and incentive programs in the development program policies. Therefore in principles of the sustainable development plan should be included as a significant part of general technical education and specialized training for experts. Education about the benefits and values of Earthen architecture, and technical education, should be provided by universities, colleges and schools to help raise the level of awareness of ordinary people and students.

Incentive policies, such as lowering taxes, energy costs as well as municipal taxes, or increasing low-interest loans, can be used by individuals or organizations to select such structures; be very effective.

One of the main subjects that I have been looking for is how I can make this biological and executive experience of the Earth structures on the Iranian plateau, which has been done and remained indigenous and local knowledge, an accessible source? And can it be useable by all people and enthusiasts in other parts of the world?


The fate of Earthen Architecture in Iran

1: The whether technically

2: in terms of adopting macro-development policies

3: development over the centuries

4: reasons for sustainability and continuity

5: in terms of management programmatic shortcomings

6: inherent potentials of this type of technique

It can be an excellent example for countries that take practical and effective steps to help the environment and the planet.

Provided that requires attention and care and the use of its beneficial and harmful results.


May 2021

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