The Narenjestan of Shiraz is a garden and pavilion located in the center of Shiraz that was once part of a larger residential complex. The “Naranjistan” or “Narenjestan” literally means “Garden of Bitter Orange”. The residence belonged to the Qavam family, who built it between 1879 and 1886. Ebrahim Khan-e-Qavam, the original patron and owner of the complex, is known to have designed the buildings in collaboration with a master mason. Qavam was the prime minister during the reign of the Qajar kings Aqa Muhammad Khan (1796-1797) and Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834).
The Narenjestan is composed as a walled rectangular garden with a pavilion at its northernmost edge. This pavilion is the “biruni” (Outside of residence ) of a larger residential complex, with the function of receiving guests and serving as a place for reception and celebration.
In addition to the Narenjestan (The garden), the Qavam residential complex included an “Anderun”, the private quarters of the family, to the west, a public and a private bathhouse, a stable, and a husseiniyah (hoseinieh), a building dedicated to religious ceremonies. The “Andarun”, called the Zinat al Mulk, is still extant today and is connected to the “Biruni”(outside of residence) via an underground tunnel.
The Naranjestan garden takes its name from the naranj(bitter orange) groves that it contains. It is a rectangular garden surrounded by perimeter walls on all sides except for the north, where the “biruni” spans the entire length of the edge. The garden has a formal organization with a water channel along its center, flanked on each side by plots of flowers and grass, walkways, and groves of trees.
Entered from the street on the south, the organization of the garden is directed towards the main elevation of the “biruni”. From the street, the entry vestibule splits into two separate entrances directed towards the two paths flanking the water channel. Flanking the vestibule are offices. Each side is divided into three spaces which have a nice view to the garden. The organization is such that a visitor coming only to conduct business would not need to proceed further into the garden, which was intended for guests and family.
Situated at the northern short edge of the rectangular garden, the main elevation of the “Biruni” faces onto the garden with the water channel at its center preceded by a pool of water. At the center of the main elevation is the “Talar”(Chamber) , a recessed roofed porch with two large double-story stone columns at the plane of the elevation. The “Talar”, 9 meters long, 5.2 meters wide, and 6 meters high, is both the main reception and waiting hall. Towards the interior, directly behind the Talar, is the throne room. It is where that Ebrahim Khan-e-Qavam welcomed his guests and conducted his business. These two spaces, the “Talar” and the throne room, are the most elaborately decorated rooms of the entire complex. Both are covered with mosaic mirror work. Eight three-tiered chandeliers hang from the ceiling of the “Talar”.
The “Talar” and the throne room, located symbolically and functionally at the center, also served as the central axis from which each side is mirrored. To each side of the “Talar” is a hall followed by a smaller room, both of which may have served as guest rooms. At the end of each of the smaller rooms is a staircase leading to rooms on the upper story. To each side of the “Talar” are two additional staircases. With a function beyond the maintenance of symmetry, these four staircases lead to autonomous clusters of rooms, presumably intended to provide privacy for each visiting guest and his entourage. The rooms adjacent to the “Talar” have windows that look into the “Talar” space.
Below the elevated first floor is a semi-subterranean summer room. Unlike the rest of the “Biruni”s in Iran, which is decorated with mirror and tile work, and painted wood ceilings, the decoration of the summer room consists only of patterned brick. The higher places of the rooms is decorated almost entirely with tile work. Structurally, the building is composed of mud bricks, stone, and oak beams.
In addition to the “Biruni” at the north end of the garden and the office spaces to the south end of the garden, there is also a guest house to the east of the Narenjestan walls. This guest house could be entered directly from the street or from the two entrances on the east wall of the Narenjestan garden.
From 1969 to 1979 the Narenjestan served as a museum under the Asian Institute with the American archaeologist Arthur Upham Pope as its coordinator. In 1998 it was occupied by the faculty of Art and Architecture of Shiraz University.
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