Projects

Isfahan Urban History Project

The Isfahan Urban History Project (IUHP), also referred to as the Isfahan City Project, was undertaken by Lisa GolombekRenata Holod and Claus Breede between 1974 and 1976. The project's initial objective was to understand the structure and fabric of medieval Isfahan prior to large scale changes instituted under Shah Abbas of the Safavid Dynasty at the end of the 16th century. Corroborating textual sources, like the writings of local historians, geographers and travelers, with the observations of extensive field surveys, the Isfahan Urban History Project aimed to develop a context for urban transformation between pre-Safavid and Safavid Isfahan. Resources essential to the project included Chardin’s Voyages de chevalier Chardin en Perse et autres lieux de l’Orient, and a copy of a 1924 Sultan Seyyed Reza Khan Isfahan map, reflecting the city prior to major modernization efforts, and a 1963 map based on an aerial survey of the city. Funding for the field work was provided by the Royal Ontario Museum. Following field work, research was integrated into a related computer program project, as well as subsequent publications and lectures.

One goal of the project was to understand the structure and function of whole city blocks as units. Rather than separate domestic architecture, public service buildings, thoroughfares and other monuments from one another, the researchers sought to define how these various types of structures interacted. Important to this aim was the concept of "service nodes," intersections of public thoroughfares that included fountains (saqqa-khana), warehouses (saray), bazaars and perhaps mosques. 

The Isfahan Urban History Project archive consists of original field notes compiled by the team and their assistant Juliette Yaghubi-Nassab during the 1974 and 1976 field seasons and thereafter. The archive includes notebooks, sketchbooks, research indexes, maps, drawings, photography and color slides depicting monuments, domestic architecture and street systems in the city. Unpublished writings by Golombek and Holod are also preserved in the archive. The archive was housed at the Royal Ontario Museum until 2015 when the contents was transferred to the Aga Khan Documentation Center. 

The digitization of the archive is an ongoing project. Approximately 300 color slides have been digitized and cataloged so far, along with 39 drawings and prints, and 2 field notebooks. A draft version of the finding aid for the collection is available online. Please contact the Aga Khan Documentation Center for further information about the contents of the archive.

Finding Records on Archnet: Archnet users can browse the entire digitized content of this collection by clicking on the "View the Collection" window in the top right of this page. This will display all records associated with the collection. Users can also browse by type by clicking on one of the five sub-collections (Team Members, Drawings, Photos, Field Books and Isfahan Map). These display as the first five results on the "View the Collection" page.

Matthew Saba
Visual Resources Librarian for Islamic Architecture, AKDC at MIT
March 2017

Sources:

Golombek, Lisa and Renata Holod. Preliminary Report on the Isfahan City Project (Paper delivered at the Congress for Iranian Art & Archaeology, Munich, September 1976). Isfahan Urban History Project. The Aga Khan Documentation Center at Mit. Carton 1, Folder 17, "Isfahan Papers [1975-1979]." 

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