How to reach: Take the subway and get off in “Panzdahe Khordad” station which is located on the red line. You can also take buses or taxis to Imam Khomeini square, then walk to the palace.
How old is this complex? It dates back to Zandiyeh period, but mainly it’s buildings are built in Qajar (18th to 20th century).
Suggestions: As Golestan Palace is a large complex, it’s better to visit this complex at morning. If you visit it afternoon, you may not be able to visit the whole complex.
You can visit nearby historical buildings like Massoudieh Building, Negarestan Garden and museum and Sepahsalar Mosque.
Tehran is considered a historical region of Iran and before the Safavid dynasty came to power it was merely a village which gradually developed into a town during Safavid reign (960 LAH or 1553 AD). Initially, the town had fortifications with four gates, 114 towers and five neighborhoods called: Udlajan, Sangelaj, Chaleh Meydan, Bazaar and more important than them all Arg which actually served as a governmental quarter. The oldest part of the Arg (Golestan Palace) is Golestan garden representing the Persian Garden style and is compatible with the characteristics of the terrain and its weather. Dating back to the Safavid era, Golestan garden was also under special protection later under Zand dynasty but only under Qajar dynasty it was selected as the government centre and political capital of Iran in 1200 LAH (1785 AD) due to its appropriate strategic, defensive and geographical position (its fertility, abundant water and mild weather). Golestan Palace which was the residence and governing base of Qajar kings was located in the northern part of the garden. Actually, two Qajar compounds were in existence at the time; the Tabriz compound called Dar-ol Khalafeh served as the residence of the crown prince (or Nayeb-ol Khalafeh) and the Tehran compound was called Dar-ol Hokumeh and served as the residence of Qajar kings. The former was demolished by the order of Pahlavi king the second and replaced by the local governor general’s office. Thus, Golestan Palace can be regarded as the only complete and intact sample of Dar-ol Khalafeh still remaining from the Qajar era. As a matter of fact, Golestan Palace is one of the most influential and prominent structures of Tehran from cultural, social and political points of view. It is actually a continuum starting from the Safavid period and going strong in Zand and Qajar eras until the Pahlavi rule. Not only was it a governmental, recreational and residential compound, but also a centre for artistic creations as well as the origin of the architectural school of Qajar in Iran and the world. As a matter of fact, Golestan Palace served as the first film studio and the first photographer’s studio of Iran as well as a location for the gathering of well known artists of the time. The reason for all the architectural and artistic developments taking place during the rule of Naser ed-Din Shah was his own artistic character. Without doubt, he was the best photographer, painter, poet and calligrapher of his time so it can be concluded that he was inherently quite familiar with the delicate soul of artists and architects as well as their cultural significance. Such a characteristic is unprecedented in other kings and rulers of that era. Golestan Palace 2 Executive Summary Kamal-ol Molk, Aqa Lotf- Ali Suratgar, Abol-Hassan Qaffari and Mahmud Khan-e Malek-ol Shoara were among the famous painters of the time. Mirza Qolam Reza Isfahani was the most skilled calligrapher of Naseri era and Mirza Abol-Hassan-e Memar Bashi (the architect of Shams-ol Imareh), Mohammad Ibrahim Khan-e Memar Bashi and Mirza Reza Mohandes who built Dar-ol Fonun were among the master builders of that time. Moreover, the first prolific professional photographer of Naser ed -Din Shah’s court was Aqa Reza Akkas Bashi who accompanied the king during his long lasting reign in many trips and rites, documenting them all. The above mentioned artists are among the most influential ones living during Naser ed-Din Shah’s rule, a period of time which was rightfully named as the artistic age of the era following Qajar School. Another point worth mentioning is the presence of valuable art works belonging to women who have shown their skill in the fields of writing, calligraphy and other arts that prove yet other aspects of the outstanding artistic, cultural and social values of Golestan Palace. This collection in itself is deemed a unique and worthy treasury. Among these artists mention can be made of Omme Salmeh, daughter of Fat’h – Ali Shah who was the best female calligrapher of Qajar dynasty as well as Maryam Banoo, who was another brilliant gem shining in that field.
The Complex is renowned for containing a comprehensive collection of works of art and architecture belonging to the Qajar time and as a matter of fact is universally known as the Qajar era museum. Golestan Palace is a rich source of a wide variety of Iranian as well as foreign decorative and architectural arts dating back to the 18th and 19th century AD. Decorations of the compound pertain to various episodes of the last two hundred years of Iranian history until the present time. In fact, they are influenced by the trips of Qajar kings to the west and to Europe which brought about a new mixture of Iranian and European art. These peerless decorations which also enjoy a wide variety feature stone carvings, mirror works, fretworks, paintings and especially tile works with astonishing and beautiful forms and designs. Generally, they are a collection of traditional and artistic experiments belonging to the Qajar period and before it particularly in Iran, thus they are quite noteworthy. Moreover, the art of this period is also important due to its proximity to the modern age so that many of contemporary artworks have roots in Qajar era. The strong impact of western arts manifested clearly in modern Iranian art has originated in this period of time. As a result, Golestan Palace is recognized as the prototype of the combinational art of Iran and the west. The influential role of artistic and architectural values of ancient Iran as well as the impacts of the west on the art and architecture of the time has turned the Complex into a unique and integrated compound which has been used as an exceptional model by architects and artists in other architectural spaces belonging to different periods of time. Prominent among palaces constructed under direct impact of the art and architecture of Golestan Palace are: Masoudieh, Saheb Qaranieh, Eshrat Abad, Sorkh-e Hesar and Qasr-e yaqut all of them are in Tehran province. Golestan Palace has been the centre of Qajar rule for more than a couple of centuries. In fact, it has served as a governmental citadel and the main residence of Qajar kings. Today, it is still standing intact representing a collection of magnificent palaces and halls. Each one of these structures is actually a unique sample of decorative arts combined with traditional and modern craftsmanship concentrated in a single garden. Golestan Palace 3 Executive Summary Within this refreshing garden, exquisite treasures are in existence adding to the values of the Complex. Actually, it is the first example of its kind built from new materials based on the innovative architectural style resulted from the exchange of European and Iranian architecture. The Complex also presents a universal reservoir of developments taking place in the artistic and architectural structure of the 18th and 19th century AD.
Among other valuable features of Golestan Palace Complex are: Ayvān-e Takht-e Marmar which is the oldest structure within the historical fence of Tehran as well as the most prominent and the first recreational tower of Tehran called Shams-ol Imareh, or the Sun Building) which enjoys a good view of Tehran landscape from its rooftop. This is a unique and striking structure which shows a combination of traditional and western architectural characteristics unprecedented before and after the Qajar rule. Shams-ol Imareh is the first building of Tehran in which industrial construction materials such as cast iron has been used in its columns as well as in the rails of its façade. Usage of light covers based on the truss technology is important for the transfer of forces; furthermore, the skill and preciseness of the builder regarding the structural resistance of the building against earthquake forces is also remarkable. Another point to be noted is that all royal compounds throughout the world have always been fenced (in particular Iranian ones due to the introvert nature of Persian architecture). But Shams-ol Imareh is actually the first recreational tower of Iran which not only makes part of the urban body but also provides an external manifestation. In fact, it is exposed to public view and is part of the townscape. Among other prominent properties of Golestan Palace is the Kakh-e Abyaz which from the beginning has been the workplace of successive chancellors, premiers as well as a venue for cabinet sessions.
Due to the presence of Iranian political and social personalities such as: Farman Farma, Soheyli, Forughi and others until the cabinet of Mosaddegh, it has actually witnessed many historical events in Iran. Because of the existence of five hundred thousand written documents belonging to the government in the archives of Golestan Palace, it is considered one of the most important testimonies to the political and social historic events of Iran. Yet, another historical and political building of architectural value in Iran is Khabgah (guesthouse) or Kakh-e Elizabeth which is the newest structure in Golestan Palace complex (1342 SAH or 1963 AD). Due to the hosting of many presidents, prime ministers and ambassadors of the time, here has been the scene of a major portion of historical, political and social memoirs of Iran. Among its high level guests were, Charles Andre Joseph Marie De Gaulle, the prime minister of France (1959-69), Queen Elizabeth of England and Cheng Xiao Ping, the Chinese president. Furthermore, the Complex boasts eighty thousand museum objects and is one of the oldest and most complete museum compounds in Iran. The museum contains a unique collection of 338 hand-woven Persian carpets of which the most valuable one is the first documenting carpet of Iran whose picture has been depicted by Kamal-ol Molk, one of the greatest master painters of Iran. It must also be noted that thirty of the most precious carpets of the collection is now kept at the Carpet Museum of Iran. Among other historic artistic objects making the complex of outstanding universal value as an artwork collection are more than 1115 paintings drawn by well known local and foreign artists, the oldest public clock of the country, a collection of old military weapons (partially transferred to the Golestan Palace 4 Executive Summary Weaponry Museum of Saad Abad) and the last but not the least is its unrivalled jewelry treasury including items such as: Takht-e Tavus (the peacock throne), Takht-e Naderi and the Jahan Nama Globe which is a masterpiece of Jewelry making both in Iran and the world. Additionally, the royal album house features 1040 old photo albums taken by famous photographers lived in Qajar times as well as more than four thousand single pictures in small and large sizes providing a rare and rich treasury of pictorial documents about the history and society of Iran and the world in the 18th and 19th centuries AD. This album house is indeed regarded as the second best reservoir of old photos after the album house of the Royal Museum of Britain and can be considered as one of the best resources for historical research of the time. In fact, it was founded based on documentation of great cities of Iran and abroad during the trips of Naser ed-Din Shah and Mozaffared Din Shah to Europe. The Documentation Centre of Golestan Palace is a newly established facility aimed at reorganizing and reassessing more than five hundred thousand historic records existing in Golestan Palace. The oldest documents of the centre pertain to the Teymurid period (early 7th Century LAH till late 8th century LAH) until the Safavid era (10th and 11th centuries LAH). But most of them belong to the Qajar period in particular to Naser ed-Din Shah’s rule. Documents existing in Golestan Palace consist of items such as correspondences of kings, princes, dignitaries, governors, records of different ministries, financial documents, treaties and manuscripts including: typed, printed or hand written items, communications, scrolls, notebooks, booklets, maps, etc…each with the potential of a firsthand historical resource which can be useful for researchers and historians interested in this period of Iran’s history. In this regard, one of the most important parts of Golestan Palace Complex is the reservoir of its manuscripts which despite its small area is deemed one of the oldest and richest royal libraries of Iran. In fact, it includes the royal library of Qajar era boasting more than 3200 manuscript titles including unique examples of sciences, arts, literature and calligraphy of not only Iran but also other countries. As a matter of fact, previously it was part of the royal library of Shah Abbas of Safavid dynasty coming into the possession of Naser ed-Din Shah from his predecessors. Today, it has evolved into the modern manuscript library of Golestan Palace Complex. It should be noted that due to the construction of thematic museums under Pahlavi the second, some of the objects of this collection were transferred to other museums but this has not decreased its importance among Iranian and foreign specialized museums.
The area surrounding Golestan Palace Complex has also added to its significance due to the old age of elements remaining from old Tehran such as its historical Bazaar, its traditional religious centers as well as its historical neighborhoods such as Udlajan and Sangladj quarters. Under Naser ed-Din Shah rule in 1851, the first poly technique school (Dar-ol Fonun) of Iran was built by his insightful chancellor, Mirza Taghi Khan-e Amir Kabir heralding the start of new developments in the core zone of the Complex. In fact, the construction of the school aimed at teaching modern sciences and techniques was regarded as the beginning of scientific and intellectual changes in the contemporary age throughout Iran. Moreover, at the apex of Qajar power in Iran, Takiyeh Dowlat was built next to Golestan Palace in the style of European amphitheatres. This was actually the first theatrical compound of Iran with a profound effect on its theatrical culture in particular the art of Taziyeh which is still thriving. Golestan Palace 5 Executive Summary After the fall of the Qajar dynasty, despite the ongoing significance of Golestan Palace, its nearby areas were selected by the new government as a proper place for establishing state offices due to the importance of their central location. Construction of important ministries such as the Internal Affairs Ministry as well as Radio Iran, the Justice Palace, the Ministry of Industries and the National Bank added to the cultural significance and richness of the vicinity of Golestan Palace. They were built by distinct architects like Gabriel Georgian and Mohsen Forughi who were among the first Iranian graduates of Bozar School in Paris. These unique and distinctive monuments belong to the architectural development era of Iran during which a transition was made from historical styles to styles influenced by the western architecture in the framework of modern architecture. Additionally, these buildings are already included in the National Heritage List of Iran providing an unequalled collection of new Iranian architecture within this area denoting the high social and political significance and value of Golestan Palace and its vicinity.
Source: UNESCO Nomination Document (ICHO)