Azadi Tower

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Azadi Tower
برج آزادی
Borj e Āzādi
Azadi Tower 2014 May.jpg
Photographed in 2014.
Former names Shahyad Tower
Etymology Freedom Tower
General information
Type Cultural
Location District 10, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Coordinates 35°41′58″N 51°20′16″E / 35.69944°N 51.33778°E / 35.69944; 51.33778Coordinates: 35°41′58″N 51°20′16″E / 35.69944°N 51.33778°E / 35.69944; 51.33778
Opened January 14, 1972
Inaugurated October 16, 1971
Cost $6 million
Client Council of Celebrations
Owner Roudaki Founation
Roof 45 m (148 ft)
Design and construction
Architect Hossein Amanat
Structural engineer Ove Arup & Partners
Main contractor MAP Company

The Azadi Tower (Persian: برج آزادی‎‎ — Borj e Āzādi; "Freedom Tower"), formerly known as the Shahyad Tower (برج شهیادBorj e Šahyād; "King's Memorial Tower"), is a monument located at Azadi Square, in Tehran City, Iran. It is one of the symbols of Tehran, and marks the west entrance to the city. It was commissioned by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, to mark 2,500 years of the Persian Empire.

After winning a competition, Hossein Amanat was tasked to design the tower, his client being the Council for Celebrations. His ideas were based upon Islamic Iranian and Sassanid architecture, popular influences on the arts during the 1960s due to the Shah's White Revolution. Iran's increasing wealth sparked modernization programs and sent the art industry into a renaissance-like period.


Plans of the Azadi Tower.

In 1966, the architect Hossein Amanat won a competition to design the building. He combined elements of the architecture of Sassanid and Achaemenid eras with the post-Islamic Iranian architecture.[1] During the 1960s, Iran became a major oil exporting country, using the newly found wealth, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi launched programs to modernize and industrialize the country. The field of art began to thrive during this time, Amanat said it was like "a mini renaissance." [2]

Amanat told the BBC World Service in an interview that "overall, the building starts from the base and moves up towards the sky." He states that he was inspired to design the tower in this way because he felt that Iran "should be moving towards a higher level." Amanat proceeded to describe each section of the tower and what had influenced their design. The main vault is a Sasanid arch which represents the pre-Islamic period. The broken arch above it represents the Islamic period as it became a popular form of arch after Islam began to influence architecture. The "network of ribs", which connects the arches together, shows the connection between pre-Islamic and post-Islamic Iran.[3]

The tower is part of the Azadi Cultural Complex, located in Tehran's Azadi Square in an area of about 50,000 m². There are several fountains around the base of the tower and a museum underground.

Built with white marble stone from the Isfahan Province, it includes eight thousand blocks of stone. The stones were all located and supplied by Ghanbar Rahimi, who was well known for his extensive knowledge of quarries, often known as the "Soltan e Sang e Iran" (Iran's Sultan of Stone). According to Amanat's website, computers were used to "define its complex woven surfaces," which, at the time, was a new technological technique.[4] The main contractor for the construction of the tower was the MAP Company, this was supervised by a renowned Iranian stonemason, Ghaffar Davarpanah Varnosfaderani.[5]

Amanat was impressed by the work of Ove Arup & Partners, especially their contributions towards the design and construction of the Sydney Opera House. It was for this reason that he chose to contract them to assist in the structural design of the tower. Due to concerns of corrupt bureaucracy, he was required to sign underneath contracts with “On condition of the approval of the Council of Celebrations,” his client. However, Amanat faced resistance from the head of the council, Boushehri, as well as several conservative and nationalistic Iranian engineers as he was turning to a British engineer for assistance. Despite the resistance, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi sided with Amanat, sending a letter to Bousherhri, telling him that “Amanat is the architect, leave him be; let him do what he wants.” Empress Farah Pahlavi was also supportive of Amanat's decisions.[6]

The main financing was provided by a group of five hundred Iranian industrialists. The inauguration of the tower took place on October 16, 1971.[7] However, it was not until January 14, 1972 that the tower was open to the public.[2]

According to a report by the MEED, the cost of constructing the tower was $6 million [8]

The iconic Monument des Martyrs in Algiers which was built in 1982, shows a strong influence by this monument, in its general design as well as its details.


Inside the viewing floor at the top of Azadi Tower.

The first known name associated with this monument was Darvaze-ye Koroush ("the Gate of Cyrus"), and at the time of the Centenary Celebrations, Assadollah Allam, who chaired the Council of Celebrations, referred to the monument as Darvaze-ye Shahanshahi ("the Imperial Gate"). The monument's official name was decided before the announcement of the competition for the monument's design in September 1966. Bahram Farahvashi, a scholar and professor of ancient Iranian languages and cultures, who worked with the Council of Celebrations, came up with the officially designated name of the structure Shahyad Aryamehr Monument.[9] Built in 1971 in commemoration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire, this "gateway into Tehran" was named the Shahyad ("King's Memorial") in honor of the Shah, but was changed to Azadi ("Freedom") after the 1979 Revolution. It is 50 meters (164 ft) tall and completely clad in cut marble.[10][11]


Interior view of the Azadi Tower's underground museum.

The entrance is directly underneath the main vault and leads into the Azadi Museum on the basement floor. The black walls and proportions of the building are austere. Heavy doors open onto a crypt with subdued lighting issuing from showcases, each containing an object. Gold and enamel pieces, painted pottery, marble, miniature, and paintings are located among black marble walls. A concrete mesh forms the ceiling. Approximately fifty pieces have been selected, each representing a particular period in Iran's history.

The main display is occupied by a copy of the Cyrus Cylinder (the original is in the British Museum). A translation of the cuneiform inscription on the cylinder is inscribed in golden letters on the wall of one of the galleries leading to the museum's audio-visual department; opposite, a similar plaque lists the Twelve Points of the White Revolution. Next to the Cyrus Cylinder, there is a gold plaque commemorating the original presentation of the museum to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi by the Mayor of Tehran.

Among the earliest items on display are square flagstones, gold sheeting, and terra cotta tablets from Susa, covered with uniform cuneiform characters. Potteries, ceramics, varnished porcelains (such as a seventh-century blue and gold dish from Gorgan), an illuminated Koran, and miniatures highlight milestones in the country's history up to the nineteenth century, which is represented by two painted panels from Empress Farah Pahlavi's collection.


Audio-visual theater (1971)[edit]

The original show, devised in 1971, was replaced in 1975 by a new one which invited visitors to discover Iran's geographic and natural diversity along with its fundamental historical elements. The landscapes and works of art, the faces and achievements, calligraphed poems and technical undertakings, the life and hopes of a population were shown through its ancient miniatures as well as through the smiling studiousness of Iran's new generation of children. This creative "sound and light" performance, devised by a Czechoslovak company, required 12,000 meters of film, 20,000 color slides, 20 movie projectors, and 120 slide projectors. Five computers operated the entire system. The audio-visual programs were carried out under the guidance of professor Jaroslav Frič (1928–2000).[9]

Gate of Words light show (2015)[edit]

The German artist Philipp Geist organized a projection mapping installation named Gate of Words at the Azadi Tower, on the occasion of the German Unity Day.[12] The show was held from October 3 to 5, 2015.

In this project, the artist visualized the topics of freedom, peace, space and time in a poetical manner. Geist developed a light installation made of colored words and concepts in different languages, and abstract painterly compositions of images. The glowing words were in English, German and Persian moving in sync with live music on the walls of the tower.[13]



External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BBC فارسی - ايران - 'برج آزادی پس از۲۰ سال شسته می شود'". BBC Persian (in Persian). Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Riazati, Rozita (14 January 2016). "The man behind Iran's most famous tower". BBC News. Retrieved 22 February 2017. 
  3. ^ Amanat, Hossein (January 14, 2016). "The Freedom Tower in Tehran". Witness (Interview). Interview with Rozita Riazati. BBC World Service. 
  4. ^ "AMANAT ARCHITECT - SHAHYAD MONUMENT". Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  5. ^ Grigor, Talinn (2003). "Of Metamorphosis Meaning on Iranian Terms". Third Text. 17 (3): 207–225. 
  6. ^ "Hossein Amanat with Benjamin Tiven". Bidoun. Retrieved 24 May 2015. 
  7. ^ "Iran Travel Photos. Tourism pictures from Iran - CountryReports". Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  8. ^ "MEED". Middle East Economic Digest. 15. 29 October 1971. 
  9. ^ a b Khashayar, Hemmati, (2015-08-20). "A Monument of Destiny: Envisioning A Nation's Past, Present, and Future Through Shahyad/Azadi". Retrieved 2016-02-28. 
  10. ^ "Yahoo News - Latest News & Headlines". Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  11. ^ Hureau, Jean. Iran Today, 2nd. Ed, editions j.a.
  12. ^ The Guardian: German artist lights up Tehran's freedom arch – in pictures. 7 October 2015.
  13. ^ Philipp Geist was invited by the German Embassy to propose such a project at the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the German Reunification.