The madrasa is entered from the bazaar, in the western area of the shrine complex of Imam Riza, and constitutes a typical Timurid symmetric four-iwan plan with a domed chamber in each corner. An inscription dates the construction to 843/1439. Amir Yusuf Khvajeh (d.846/1442) founded the madrasa to hold his tomb; his cenotaph is located under the south dome. This and the west dome are both double domes on tall drums with windows. The chamber in the east corner, under a low dome, serves as a mosque.
Living chambers with a double story façade of niches connect the iwans. All but the southeast iwan taper at the rear wall to form a bay. The southeast and northeast iwans are barrel vaulted and the other two have muqarnas semi-domes. The southwest iwan holds a mihrab.
The decoration makes lavish use of tile mosaic and haft-rangi tiles. Tile work in the courtyard possibly dates from a period of Safavid repair. Carved plaster decoration found above a dado in the entrance vestibule and in the iwans is unusual for Timurid work, resembling rather Il-Khanid techniques and design. Such work was still undertaken in Qum however, where Yusuf Khvajah had spent much time.
Golombek, Lisa and Donald Wilber. The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan, Volume I. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.
O'Kane, Bernard. Timurid Architecture in Khurasan. Costa Mesa, Ca: Mazda Publishers, 1987.
Pope, Arthur Upham. 'The Safavid Period.' In A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present, edited by Pope, Arthur Upham and Phyllis Ackerman (assistant editor), Vol. 3 Architecture, Its Ornament, City Plans, Gardens, 3rd ed., 1165-1225. Tehran: Soroush Press, 1977.
Saadat, Bijan. 1976. The Holy Shrine of Imam Reza, Mashhad (Astan-i Quds). Shiraz, Iran: Asia Institute, Pahlavi University, volume III.
Published by the Asia Institute in Shiraz in 1976, "The Holy Shrine of Imam Reza, Mashhad" summarizes the findings of an architectural survey headed by architect Bijan Saadat with associate architect Riccardo Sardarelli and assistant architect Piero Degl'Innocenti. It consist of four volumes:
Volume I: Nine folding plates and legends (ArchNet files FLS1272 and FLS1273, containing the plan and eight cross-sections respectively). Volume II: 79 photographic plates with captions Volume III: Historic and architectural description in English, bibliography and glossary, 57 pages Volume IV: Historic and architectural description in Persian, 76 pages