The city of Yazd is located in the center of Iran, in a vast dry rain shadow desert valley overlooked by the Shir Kuh, Iran's highest mountain range. Yazd was probably founded by the Sassanids, and grew in eminence as a junction of trade routes linking the cities of Isfahan, Kerman and Neyshabur. It has, since the Arab conquest in 642, continued to be an urban settlement shaped and characterized by mud domes and wind tower architectural forms, extensive subterranean canal systems (qanats) and quarters of Zoroastrian and Jewish minorities. The earliest known descriptions, dating from the tenth century describe a well-built, fortified city with iron gates, then known as Kathah in the larger province of Yazd.
The Kakuyids established a series of villages and reinforced the network of qanats around Yazd. Hence greatly contributing to the rapid urbanization of the region in the eleventh century. Yazd under the subsequent rule of the Atabegs survived the Mongol invasion of Persia in 1220 to later become a refuge for Islamic culture and learning. The Il-Khanid rule under Sayyid Rukn al Din in the fourteenth century witnessed an increase in construction with the use of the waqf as an instrument for urban development. The Muzaffarid conquest in 1313 ushered in an era of prosperity and development as Yazd became capital to the provinces of Kerman, Fars and Shiraz.
Large urban design projects were initiated and the city walls were rebuilt in 1346-7, nearly doubling the size of the city. The complex of Vaqt va Sat comprising of a shrine, library, college and observatory was constructed next to the Atabeg Friday mosque, which was itself reconstructed half a century later in 1375.The Timurid conquest reinforced Yazd's status as an important military stronghold in central Iran when defense walls and fortifications were added to the city's southern limits in 1395. Yazd became a center of religious education under the reign of the Timurid governor, Amir Chaqmaq. Yazd passed into Safavid control in the early sixteenth century, as a city of little importance and alternately part of the provinces of Fars, Kerman and Khurasan. The invasion and unstable rule by the Ghalzai Afghans in the 1720s furthered the city's deterioration with little new development till 1747. A succession of able governors beginning with Mohammad Taqi Khan (1747-1798) partially restored the city's lost glory with construction and repair of qanats, villages, gardens, caravan-serais and defense outposts.
Yazd's existence in an arid region was made possible by an extensive system of sloping subterranean man made infiltration tunnels which conduit fresh water from the surrounding highlands. Some of these conduits, called qanats are as long as 50 kilometres in length, though the most do not exceed five kilometres. The extreme climate also evolved architecture obsessed with insulation by mud bricks and thick walls as well as cooling by ventilation structures called badgirs. A badgir is a vertical wind catching structure on the roof that directs and cools trapped wind over small water pools within the building.
Bonine, Michael Edward. "Yazd and its Hinterland: A central place system of dominance in the central Iranian plateau." Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1975.
Lockhardt, Laurence. Persian Cities. London: Luzac & Company, 1960.
Yazd Province." Iran Travel and Tourism Organization. http://www.yazdcity.com/english/indexen.htm [Site inaccessible as of 11 August, 2016]
"Iranian Architecture." http://www.irania.tv/city/yazd/ [Site inaccessible as of 11 August, 2016]
The shrine of Davazadeh Imam or the Maghbareh-ye Davazdah Emam, as it is locally known, means the shrine of the Twelve Imams. It functions both as a religious shrine and funerary mosque near the neighborhood Husayniyah (theater for staging passion plays) in the Fahadan quarter of Yazd. The structure is noted for containing one of the oldest extant squinches of a type found extensively in the edifices of the Seljuk period; a trefoil arch that was elaborated, multiplied, and finally developed into muqarnas (projecting niches used for spatial transitions to create domes, often from a quadrilateral to a circular base). It thus marks a significant stage in the increasing emphasis on the zone of transition in Seljuk architecture, first seen in the mausoleum at Tim from 977-8.
Abu Saeed and Abu Ya'ghoub, both military governors of Kakuyid ruler Ala-al Doleh Faramarz, began construction in 1036-7 and later Seljuk additions can be detected in the characteristic decorative patterns of the front portal. The structure primarily consists of a square chamber and twelve domes dedicated to the Twelve Shi'ite Imams, of which the central dome rises over an octagonal base created by a number of tri-lobed squinches. Built largely in plain brick with a pronounced batter of bearing walls, a stark symmetrical silhouette and unalleviated visual mass is maintained with a flat, uninterrupted roofline. The building's verticality and heavy dome is emphasized by elaborate external articulation, seen in the use of narrow proportioned brick panels and concentric arches in relief. The mausoleum's shallow dome together with dome of the adjacent Zendan-e Eskandar or Alexander's prison, ascribed by popular tradition to have once been the famed Macedonian's jail (for Yazd's rebellious elite, controls the Fahadan quarter's skyline.
The interior contains fragments of an ornamentation scheme that include a wide variety of carved stucco forms. The design on the dome interior, painted colored shafts overlapping to form a sunburst, is the earliest example of a design that would be subsequently repeated in Yazd. A panel over the mihrab bay incorporates high relief carved stucco in a unique, quilted design not seen in any other standing edifice. A pattern of Kufic inscriptions in three lines, within a floral margin lists the names of each of the consecrated Imams. The structure also houses the grave of Fakhreddin Esfajaroudi, one of the venerated Esfajaroudi Sheikhs of Fahadan from the fourteenth century. Considerably restored in the last century, the building preserves one of the first stages of structural and decorative art experimentation of what is now characteristic architecture of the entire Kavir region.
Pope, Arthur Upham. 1977. "Architectural Ornament." In A Survey of Persian Art. (Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, eds.) Tehran: Soroush Press, 1258-1364.
Schroeder, Eric. 1977. "The Seljuk Period.", In A Survey of Persian Art. (Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, eds.) Tehran: Soroush Press, 981-1045.
Hillenbrand, Robert. 2000. Islamic Architecture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 291, 294. Hutt, Anthony & Harrow, Leonard. 1978. Islam architecture: Iran 2. London: Scorpion Publishers, 65.