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.
Recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2001.
Part of a range of measures aimed at development of an appropriate interface between the city of Tehran and its natural environs to the north, the Bagh-e-Ferdowsi park demonstrates an innovative approach to both conception and environmental design. The project, together with the adjoining Bagh-e-Sangi Jamshidieh park, which was designed by the same team, is part of a scheme aimed at creating a green interface between urban development and nature, at the base of the Alborz mountains, which now form the northern limits of the city. As well as promoting conservation and awareness of nature, the project serves as an important social focus for young people from the rapidly-developing northern suburbs, while providing them with much-needed space for recreation within the parks, and on the slopes above. Inspired use of the natural topography and features of the steep site, together with intensive planting, has resulted in a design that is in harmony with nature and its surroundings. As such, Bagh-e-Ferdowsi represents a creative re-interpretation of the traditional Persian "paradise" garden, adapted to modern needs.
Bagh-e-Ferdowsi occupies some 30 hectares in the steep Darabad valley in the foothills of the Alborz mountains. The parts of the site that were in private ownership were purchased by Tehran Municipality for its transformation into a park. Apart from the intensive planting that has been introduced, the primary development on the site is a series of stone-paved paths and steps, rising up the slope of the hill, along which areas for sitting, refreshments and entertainment have been created, within the natural topography. Four cultural houses, representing the distinctive architectural and decorative styles of the Azeri, Kurdish, Turkmen and Zagros ethnic groups in Iran, have been built along the route, and provide spaces for refreshment and entertainment.