Set at the foot of the Alborz mountains, Tehran, once an agricultural enclave characterized by forests and abundant mountain water, developed at the site of a citadel since medieval times. Tehran was first walled during the Safavid era, in the mid-sixteenth century. With the decline of other regional centers, Tehran replaced Shiraz as the capital of the Zand dynasty in the mid-eighteenth century, before being proclaimed the capital of the succeeding Qajar dynasty in 1795. Tehran flourished under Qajar patronage, and the city gained the addition of various gardens and complexes, perhaps the most notable being the Kakh-i Gulistan, or Gulistan Palace.
By the early twentieth century, these walls were subsumed by the continually expanding city, as the population growth reached half a million. From 1870-2/1287-9 AH, Nasir al-Din undertook the city's modernization, extending the city walls, adding decorative towers and twelve new, tiled gates. Inspired by the urban development of Paris under Napoleon III, which al-Din had witnessed personally on a visit abroad in 1873, the new walls were designed with the work of Sebastien Leprestre de Vauban in mind, and the area north of the original city transformed to the likeness of the Boulevard Haussman. New avenues and squares were constructed, among them; Meydan-e Tupkhane (Cannon Square) , Avenue Lalezar (Tulipbed Street), and Ala Od Dwale Under al-Din's direction the city quadrupled in size, and many of the gardens surrounding the city were used for further construction. The Kakh-i Gulistan was rebuilt, and became the centerpiece of the city, with the addition of turreted towers, supervised by Dust 'Ali Khan Nizam al Dawla. Polychrome tiles replaced the painted ornamentation in much of the complex, as did carved stucco and decorative mirror-work. In addition to the Kakh-i Gulistan, summer palaces were constructed in the Shimiranat villages in the city's northern suburbs.
Tehran yet again underwent expansion and modernization efforts in the mid-twentieth century, as the prosperity that accompanied the exploitation of oil from the 1950s accelerated the growth of the city. In 1979, Tehran became a hub for revolutionary activities, aimed at concluding the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The city has continued to be a site of development, with over half of Iran's total industry being based in Tehran, and the construction of many research and educational centers.
Once a private park and later a sanitorium, the garden is situated in the foothills of the Alborz Mountains. The reconstitution of the garden was also intended to link two contemporary buildings (a cultural center and a secretariat) located at either extreme of the site.
Prior to the intervention, the park was noted for its three qanat - an indigenous irrigation system that employs interconnected wells and underground streams to transport water from distant locations.. The architect used the cascading pools of the central qanat to form the focal point of a new axis leading from the cultural centre to the secretariat. A series of paved terraces was introduced to define this processional sequence up the hillside, and careful attention was given to the choice of details and materials, such as the stone retaining walls, the contrasting use of marble and concrete, and traditional, blue ceramic tiles. Existing trees were carefully maintained throughout; a network of secondary pathways traverse the axis laterally, and the other two qanat are located here.
Symbolic significance is given to the entrance to the cultural center by the placement of an abstract, free-standing portal to mark transition from the park (a celebration of the creations in nature) to the cultural center (the creations of man). A pathway leads from the park, through the threshold of the portal, over a still pool of water, down four steps and into the serene sculpture court which forms the entrance to the museum, projection hall, and café-restaurants which comprise the programme of the cultural center.