The Gulistan Palace complex in Tehran dates back to the Safavid period. In its present form, it comprises several different buildings and halls, including the following: the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar, (also called the Marble Throne Building, Iwan-i Takht-i Marmar, or Iwan-i Marmar, 1759), the Khalvat-i Karim Khani (Karim Khani Palace, 1759), the Talar-i Almas (Diamond Hall, 1801), the Imarat-i Badgir (Wind-catcher Building, 1813), the Talar-i Aaj (Hall of Ivory, 1863), the Shams al-Imarat (Shams-ol Emareh, or Sun Building, 1866), the Talar-i Salam (Reception Hall, 1874), the Mouze-i Makhsous (Special Museum, 1874), the Talar-i Ayeneh (Hall of Mirrors, 1874), the Imarat-i Brelian (Talar-i Brelian, or Hall of Brilliant Diamonds, 1874), the Kakh-i Ab'yaz (White Palace, 1890), and the Chador Khaneh (Tent House).
The Gulistan Palace complex is bordered on the north by the Ministries of Finance and Justice, on the east by Naser Khosrow St, on the west by Davar Street, and along its southern edge, it is one block from Panzdah-e Khordad Ave. The Gulistan complex is located at the heart of old Tehran, which itself is framed by Shahr Park on its northwest, Pamenar Street on its east side, and the Tehran bazaar to the southwest. The complex, in its current condition, consists of two connected gardens, a smaller one on the west and a larger one on the east, and the buildings that surround them. The smaller garden on the west, referred to here as the Takht-i Marmar garden, is oriented along a north-south axis, with a small degree of rotation along the northeast-southwest axis. A water channel runs down the garden's central axis. The larger garden, here called the Gulistan garden, is roughly square in plan (it is slightly longer along its east-west axis) and with a small degree of rotation to northwest-southeast. It features a water channel that runs north-south along its western side, near its border with the Takht-i Marmar garden.
The main access to the complex is from Panzdah Khordad Square on the southwest corner. Here, one enters the Takht-i Marmar garden on its south side, and immediately views an elongated pool running on the main axis of the small garden to the north, terminating in a pool in front of the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar. This building is located along the north side of the small garden and spans the garden from northwest to northeast. On its west side, the Takht-i Marmar garden is separated from Davar Street by a wall. Along its east side, this garden is open to the Gulistan garden and on its southeast corner the Kakh-i Ab'yaz is situated. Moving to the Gulistan garden, facing northwest and then turning clockwise (from west to east), one sees the Khalvat-i Karim Khani where the two gardens meet. This palace shares its west wall with the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar. Facing north and moving east from the Khalvat-i Karim Khani is a series of buildings: the Talar-i Salam, the Mouze-i Makhsous, the Talar-i Ayeneh, the Talar-i Aaj, and the Imarat-i Brelian. An elongated pool runs north-south in front of the Talar-i Ayeneh. Looking east, one sees a wall with arched niches decorated with polychrome tiles. This wall leads to the Shams al-Imarat, located on the southern part of the east wall of the Gulistan garden. Facing south, one sees the Imarat-i Badgir at the southeast corner of the Gulistan garden. The Chador Khaneh and the Talar-i Almas are located west of the Imarat-i Badgir on the south side of the Gulistan garden. The garden wall makes up the remainder of the southern side. Turning further clockwise to face west and southwest, one sees the east elevation of the Kakh-i Ab'yaz, which is oriented along a north-south axis.
The construction and development of the Gulistan Palace complex dates back five centuries, concurrent with the growth and expansion of Tehran as Iran's capital. The building complex has been built and modified during four different dynasties: Safavid, Zand, Qajar and Pahlavi. The small city of Tehran became, for the first time, one of the residences of the Safavid rulers in the mid-sixteenth century. The first defensive city wall around Tehran was constructed under Shah Tahmasb (reg. 1524-1576) in the 1550s. Known as the "Hisar-i Tahmasebi," this wall encircled the royal citadel (Arg) situated on its north side. The Arg (measuring 500 by 800 meters) consisted of a small palace and audience chamber. These structures, which are no longer extant, formed the foundation of today's Gulistan palace. The earliest extant structures in the complex are from the Zand dynasty (1750-1794). Karim Khan-i Zand (reg. 1750-1779) intended to make Tehran his capital. To this end, in 1760 he commissioned the architect Ustad Ghulam Reza Tabrizi to renovate the Hisar-i Tahmasebi and add new buildings: an audience chamber known as the Divan Khana (today's Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar), and the Khalvat-i Karim Khani.
The Qajar dynasty came into power, in 1779, with Aqa Mohammad Khan (reg. 1794-1797), who chose Tehran as his capital in 1785. He selected the Gulistan complex as his palace and administrative center. Aqa Mohammad Khan took over some parts of the estate in the Arg, enlarging the Gulistan garden, and built a palace on the east-west axis of today's Gulistan garden. Called Qasr-i Gulistan, this palace is no longer in existence. Following his assassination in 1797, most of Aga Mohammed Khan's construction projects remained incomplete. After the death of Aqa Mohammad Khan, Fath Ali Shah (reg. 1797-1834) took power, becoming the first king to implement many major development projects in Tehran. At the Gulistan Palace, he initiated new building projects in addition to completing some of Aqa Mohammad Khan's projects; the Qasr-i Gulistan was finished in 1801. At the same time, two other buildings were constructed on the north-south axis of the current Gulistan garden: the Imarat-i Bolour on the north side of the garden and the Talar-i Almas on the south. Of the two, only the Talar-i Almas remains. The Imarat-i Badgir was Fath Ali Shah's last addition to the Gulistan complex in 1813. Naser al-Din Shah (reg. 1848-1896), Fath Ali Shah's grandson, was crowned in the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar in 1848. During the fifty years of his reign, the Gulistan Palace, his winter residence and center of government, underwent major changes. Naser al-Din Shah's projects for the palace can be grouped into five phases: (a) 1853-1885, (b) 1858-1868, (c) 1868- 1878, (d) 1878-1882, (e) 1882- 1895.
Within the first phase, Naser al-Din Shah's prime minister, Amir Kabir, bought the land on the east side of the garden, adding it to the Gulistan complex. The first addition to the Gulistan was a museum for royal weapons, located on the eastern side of the Qasr-i Gulistan. At the time, the elongated east-west complex of Qasr-i Gulistan, the new museum, and some other buildings to its west were collectively known as the Imarat-i Khorouji. During the same period, major reconstructions were performed on the Imarat-i Badgir (1853). In the second phase, Tehran was expanded and reconstructed by Naser al-Din Shah. He made a new defensive wall with twelve entrance gates around the city, Hisar-i Naseri, increasing the size of the city fourfold (1867). Inside the borders of this new wall, the Arg was located within the central area. The major construction work of this phase in the Gulistan Palace was the construction of the Shams al-Imarat on the southeast corner of the Gulistan garden. This five-story building with two flanking turrets was completed in 1867. Shortly after, the andarun (women's quarters) was built on the north side of the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar, and the Talar-i Aaj was constructed on the west side of the Imarat-i Bolour. (c) 1868- 1878. The Tekie-i Dowlat, a theatrical building for religious shows and ceremonies, was constructed south of Talar-i Almas between 1868 and 1873. It was the largest building built by Naser al-Din Shah in the Gulistan complex. Some necessary modifications were performed on the east and south buildings of the Gulistan garden in order to connect them to the Tekie-i Dowlat.
After traveling twice to Europe between 1873 and 1882, Naser al-Din Shah was greatly influenced by 19th century neoclassicism. In 1873, he initiated the construction of a series of buildings with a continuous two-story façade on the north site of the Gulistan garden and the west side of the Talar-i Aaj. These constructions resulted in the demolition of a significant portion of the Khalvat-i Karim Khani. This new complex included a main audience hall, or Talar-i Ayeneh, a museum building, and other adjoining smaller halls. The Talar-i Mouze, later was renamed the Talar-i Salam, was the first building to be in Iran to be designed as a museum. It held Naser al-Dim Shah's collection of antiquities, as well as gifts made to the sovereign. (d) 1878-1882: In 1878, the Imarat-i Khorouji, including Fath Ali Shah's Qasr-i Gulistan, was demolished and replaced by pools, grass plots, flowers, and trees. (e) 1882- 1895: The Imarat-i Khabgah was erected in 1885 on the north of the Gulistan complex to the west of the andarun. In 1887, Fath Ali Shah's Imarat-i Bolour was demolished, with the exception of its basement. In its stead, the current Imarat-i Brelian, with its decorated halls and rooms, was erected. The last building added to the Gulistan was the Kakh-i Ab'yaz in 1891. Unlike the other buildings in the complex, this two-story rectangular building is utterly European and neoclassical, with no trace of Islamic forms or ornament. This building, located in the southwest corner of the Gulistan garden, currently holds the Ethnographical Museum of Tehran. The west elevation of this building was changed during the reign of Mohmmad Reza Shah Pahlavi.
Under Pahlavi rule, the Arg of Tehran and the Gulistan complex underwent changes. Although both Reza Shah (reg. 1925-1941) and his son Mohammad Reza Shah (reg. 1941-1979) were crowned in the Gulistan Palace, Reza Shah moved his base to the Sad Abad Palace complex in the north of Tehran, and the Gulistan Palace was used to host important foreign guests. During his reign, approximately three-quarters of the Gulistan Palace complex was demolished to make space for modern office buildings. Of the Gulistan complex, only the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar, the audience halls, the Shams al-Imarat, the Imarat-i Badgir, the Kakh-i Abyaz, and the Talar-i Aaj survived. On the south side of the complex, the Tekie-i Dowlat was demolished in 1946. The Bazaar branch of Melli Bank was erected on its site. On the north side of the complex, the andarun and the Imarat-i Khabgah were demolished in the early 1960s; the Ministries of Finance and Justice were subsequently built there. A series of guardhouses and stables located west of the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar were all were knocked down. Na'yeb al-Shaltana Street, currently known as Davar Street, formerly contained within the complex, is now a public street bordering the west side of the Gulistan Palace. The following is a description of the main former and current buildings of the Gulistan Palace complex, including the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar, the Shams al-Imarat, the audience halls, the Imarat-i Badgir, the Talar-i Almas, and the Tekie-i Dowlat. Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar: The first foundation of the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar was laid by Karim Khan-i Zand in 1759. During the Qajar period, this building, which was also referred to as the Divan Khana and the Dar al-Hokouma, became the administrative center of the royal government. The Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar was used in royal ceremonies in celebrations such as Eids and Norouz, and the issuance of the king's decrees, as well as for receiving foreign ambassadors. This two-story building is pierced by a splendid talar flanked by two side chambers. The talar faces the garden and is supported by two twisted marble columns with muqarnas capitals. These eight-meter tall columns were reputedly taken by Aqa Mohammad Khan in 1771 from Karim Khan-i Zand's Qasr-i Vakil in Shiraz. Other parts of this building, such as its carved yellow marble dados decorated with flowers, parrots and eagles, reportedly have the same origin. The side chambers of the talar, which have mezzanine levels, are open to both the garden and the talar. Within the building, two stories of rooms wrap the talar; an iwan niche is found in the center of the rear wall of the building. The walls and ceiling of the talar are decorated with mirror-work mosaics, colored glass lattice windows, marble carvings, and oil paintings of Fath Ali Shah, princes, foreign ambassadors and war scenes. Under Naser al-Din Shah, some alterations were made to the decoration of the talar's windows and to its mirror work; in addition, the façade of the two wings flanking the talar were covered with polychrome tileworks. The talar of the Imarat-i Takht-i Marmar houses the royal throne. This marble throne (Takht-i Marmar) was built in 1806 by the order of Fath Ali Shah to replace the valuable Takht-i Tavous (Peacock Throne) in the talar. The marble throne, designed by the royal painter Mirza Baba Shirazi and built by the royal mason Mohammad Ebrahim Esfehani, is composed of sixty-five fine pieces of yellow marble from the province of Yazd. The body of the throne is carried on the shoulders of angels and demons carved in stone, and its steps are decorated with dragons and two lions.
Shams al-Imarat: The Shams al-Imarat, the tallest building in the Gulistan Palace, was designed as a private residence by Moayer al-Mamaalek. Built by the architect Ustad Mohammad-Ali Kashi from 1865 to 1867, the building fuses Persian and European architecture into a five-storey structure with two flanking towers topped with a turret. Between the two towers are two sets of rooms with a third clock tower centered above them. The building was used as the Shah's observatory for viewing Tehran and its surroundings. The exterior of the building is decorated with polychrome tiles and arches and pierced by wooden lattice windows with colorful stained glass. On the first floor, the main talar of the building faces west to the garden. This talar and its adjoining rooms are decorated with mirror-work mosaics and carved stucco. Imarat-i Badgir: Among the most beautiful buildings of the complex is the Imarat-i Badgir, built by Fath Ali Shah in 1813. Remarkable for its tile-decorated wind catchers, the current Imarat-i Badgir is the result of Naser al-Din Shah's major 1853 renovation and reconstruction. This building is comprised of a main talar and its adjoining rooms with four wind catchers at the corners of the building. The interior walls and ceiling of the building's talar are decorated with mirror and tile work, glass and mirror paintings, and stucco carvings. The wind catchers are tiled in blue, yellow, and black. The Imarat-i Badgir also has a howz khaneh (pond house) in the basement, which worked with the four wind catchers to circulate and cool air by passing it over pools of water. The howz khaneh is now used as the Gulistan Palace's photo gallery ("aks khaneh"). Photos from the Qajar period, many were taken by Naser al-Din Shah himself, are presented in this photo gallery.
The audience halls: Naser al-Din Shah began the construction of an audience hall and adjoining reception halls on the north side of the Gulistan garden in 1873, reconstructing and/or renovating some older buildings dating from Fath Ali Shah. These halls, from east to west, are the Imarat-i Brelian, Talar-i Aaj, Talar-i Ayeneh, Talar-i Salam and the Mouze-i Makhsous (Special Museum) in the basement of the Talar-i Salam. All these halls are connected behind a uniform two-story façade with semicircular pediment windows and doors. The main entrance to the complex is a projecting columned portico under the Talar-i Ayeneh. These buildings display the influence of neoclassical European architecture, contrasting with the Iranian traditional architecture seen in the earlier Qajar buildings which display open talars flanked by smaller chambers. On the far west side is the Imarat-i Brelian, attached to the Talar-i Aaj. Nasser al-Din Shah built the Imarat-i Brelian on the site of the Imarat-i Bolour. Compared to adjacent buildings, the floor level of the Imarat-i Brelian is slightly lower, due to its having been constructed on the basement of the Imarat-i Bolour. This building, with its richly decorated halls and rooms, was used for official receptions of foreign ambassadors during the Qajar and Pahlavi periods. The Talar-i Aaj, one of Naser al-Din Shah's earlier buildings, is located east of the Imarat-i Berelian. However, its façade has since been modified to complement the buildings connected to it. The Talar-i Ayeneh is located in the middle of this complex, projecting from the second floor of the building and facing the Gulistan garden. Although not extensive in size, it may be the most famous hall in this complex, being decorated with mirror work mosaics and colored glass. Kamal al-Molk, the well-known painter of the Qajar period, created a famous painting of Talar-i Ayeneh that is now kept within it. The Talar-i Salam and the Special Museum in its basement are located to the west of the Talar-i Ayeneh. The Talar-i Salam, (formerly the Talar-i Mouze, or Museum Hall), was built as Iran's first official museum following Naser al-Din Shah's first European trip.
At the present time, valuable antiques are housed in the Mouze-i Makhsous in the basement of the Talar-i Salam. Talar-i Almas: The Talar-i Almas, which dates back to Fath Ali Shah, takes its name from the extensive mirror work in its main hall. It is composed of this main hall, side rooms, corridors, and a second floor. Three sides of the main hall contain three small iwans; each is elevated and ornamented with mirror muqarnas and stucco carvings. The north side of the hall is decorated with large wooden lattice windows with colored glass known as orosi. Tekie-i Dowlat: The Tekie-i Dowlat was the largest building in the Gulistan Palace complex. Built between 1868 and 1873, it was demolished in 1946 by Reza Shah. This three-story theatrical building had a circular plan and measured 60 meters in diameter and 24 meters in height. There were three entrances to the building: the main entrance on the east for men, the women's entrance on the west, and the Shah's private entrance on the north, which was connected to the Gulistan garden. Its half-sphere dome was supported by eight beams, which could be draped with a membrane to provide shade. Each floor of the building consisted of twenty rooms, each 7.5 meters wide. The building was used for tazieh theatrical plays during the festival of Ashura and other religious ceremonies.
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Kakh-e Golestan (Alternate transliteration)
Gulistan Palace (Translated)
Rose Garden Palace (Translated)
Royal Residence of the Qajar Dynasty (Formerly known as)