EghtesadOnline: A phenomenal architectural innovation in human history, the design of Persian domes has for thousands of years embodied the combination of sustainable engineering marvels and sublime artistic heritage.
The Persian tradition of dome-building dates back to the earliest Mesopotamian architecture (3,000 BC) when domes became an integral part of buildings due to the scarcity of wood in many areas of the Iranian plateau, according to PressTV.
In Ancient Persia, domes were associated with the divine side of life, as their circular shape represented perfection, eternity and the heavens.
The Persian domes then became the inspiration for the domed baldachin of Roman and Byzantine practice, after Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Empire.
Domes moved to the forefront of Persian architecture during the Sasanian period (224 to 651 AD) and they evolved through different eras until the Safavid dynasty (1501–1732) when the last generation of Persian domes were characterized by a distinctive bulbous profile and astonishing tileworks.
In the Persian urban designing, domes in places of worship and public places, including traditional bazars, caravansaries, schools and baths, are designed in such a way that can be seen from different parts of urban or rural area.
The domes are normally double-shelled. While the interior shell is designed to carry the weight of the structure, the exterior shell serves as both a decorative element and as insulation against the elements. The aerodynamic shape of the domes also makes the structures more sustainable.
In Esfahan's Imam Mosque, due to its unique architectural design, if somebody makes a small sound exactly under the dome, the sound strongly resonates throughout the entire vast hall of the grand mosque. The quality has turned the mosque into one of the wonders among outstanding Iranian monuments. The UNESCO World Heritage mosque is a hub for many tourists from different parts of the world who are eager to directly witness the phenomenon at the site.
In the following video, a tourist hums a tune under the dome of the mosque, with her voice echoing throughout the chamber.
Domes also make the warm weather inside the building move up, allowing fresh air to flow inside the structure.
The symmetric geometric design of the domes also makes the buildings resistant against seismic activities and other pressures on the structure.
The use of decorative ornaments in Persian domes blossomed in the Islamic period and it reached its zenith during the Safavid period, especially in the 16th century.
While bricks, tileworks and gold coating or a combination of them are used for the exterior shell of the domes, Persian artists also use breathtaking mirror works to decorate the interior shell which also serves as the ceiling of the structure.
The principle colors used in tileworks are blue, yellow, black, turquoise, pink, aubergine and green, mainly referred to as haft rang - which literally means "seven colors."
Mosaic patterns include imaginative and creative geometric patterns, including triangles, semi-circles and circles in harmony with the structures they are placed on. The patterns later evolved into design of natural subjects, such as plants, trees, animals and human beings, combined with calligraphy works of famous maestros.
The interior shell of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, which is considered as one of the most famous architectural masterpieces in Iran, includes the patterns of Peafowl feathers.
Mirror works at the domes of Imam Reza shrine in the northeastern city of Mashhad are also viewed as other examples of glorious artistic creations in Persian architecture.
The following is some of the distinguished examples of Persian domes across Iran: