Skeleton frame raises dispute over visual landscape alternation

November 21, 2020 - 18:47

TEHRAN – A dispute has arisen by some cultural heritage fans who believe the visual landscape of the 17th-century Pol-e Khaju has been tarnished by the vista of a skeleton frame recently being erected nearby in Isfahan. 

The height of the multi-storey buildings, which are located inside the defined boundaries of the historical sites across [Isfahan] province shouldn’t be more than 12 meters, however, it seems this new building frame has broken the law, Iranian architect and scholar Ramin Madani said on Saturday, IRNA reported. 

The existing rules and guidelines are not good enough and efficient to preserve and protect cultural heritage, while they need to be followed by whoever is responsible for permitting such construction works, he added. 

He also emphasized that such projects need to be stopped and the extra heights of these buildings must be demolished, as they distort the general view of the historical sites and added, “Common interests of a city and its culture and history are something that can be traded.”

Experts have found that if the areas and elements around a valuable and registered building are left to their own, the building will gradually lose its ongoing visual value and beauty.

Therefore, defining the boundaries of historical sites seems a good solution to prevent possible damages including deliberate destruction and illegal constructions within their boundaries as well as help protecting and properly preserving them.

However, sometimes the demarcation of historical monuments are violated, they are repurposed into some buildings with various usages and even their visual beauty is distorted, which can bring serious and irreversible damages, least of which is losing their place on the National Heritage list as well as UNESCO World Heritage List.

According to the law, the offenders must pay damages and they could be sentenced to six months to three years in prison, but the problem is the ministry is not the owner of all the historical sites and many of them are privately owned and it seems there is no law enforcement guarantee.

Lack of awareness of the values of cultural heritage, lack of necessary financial and human resources, sufficient expertise on demarcation, and most importantly lack of coordination between cultural heritage-related bodies such as the municipalities are among the problems the ministry is facing in this issue.

Measuring 133 meters long and 12 meters wide, Pol-e Khaju is equipped with several sluice gates under its lower archways that doubles it as a dam. The monument was completed around 1650 under the patronage of Shah Abbas II, the seventh Safavid king who ruled the country from 1642 to 1666.

A total of 23 arches, decorative motifs and tiles, adjoining arcades, and an octagonal pavilion embedded right in the middle are amongst the main features of the picturesque bridge that spans Zayandeh-Rood, one of the largest rivers in the central Iranian Plateau.

In its heyday, the central passageway on the upper level of the bridge was utilized by horse-riders and carts while the vaulted paths on either side were dedicated to pedestrians.

It used to be a temporary hangout for the king and the royal family of the time and later turned into a place for public meetings where locals, domestic and foreign travelers come to revel in a cozy atmosphere and take the air.

Narratives say that the bridge was replaced by the ruins of an older one, which dated to the time of Tamerlane, the Turco-Mongol conqueror who reigned from 1370 to 1405.

Abundant Persian gardens, gorgeous Islamic buildings, historic bazaars, and picturesque bridges along with ubiquitous tree-lined boulevards give the city a significant visual appeal.