The Courtyard Landscape Changes of Karim Khan Citadel (Arg) in Shiraz based on Historical Photos & Documents


Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shiraz University of Arts, Shiraz, Iran.


Karim Khan’s Citadel (Arg) is the largest brick building in the Zandieh Complex in Shiraz, built with his ideas & desires. Its courtyard landscape has evolved throughout history, which is inconsistent with the current situation. Reading its landscape changes can pave the way for a proper restoration program and refine its current understanding of the citadel architecture and its spatial-visual character. The purpose of this study is to read the developments of the citadel courtyard landscape in two parts: a) landscaping features (‘planting plan’, ‘water order’ and ‘geometry of parterres’) and b) elements of architectural interventions adjoining from Zand era to contemporary time. The method of research is ‘historical-interpretive’. Research documents include (a) travelogues, historical documents and books, (b) historical photos from the Qajar era, (c) aerial imagery, and (d) field observations. The readings of historical photos are done using single-point and two-point perspective principles, and the resulting data was supported by overlaps. The findings showed that the developments of the citadel landscape could be categorized into four periods: ‘Formation (Zand)’, ‘Transformation & Changes (Qajar)’, ‘De-functionalizing and Demolition (Pahlavi)’ and ‘Restoration & Rehabilitation (Islamic Republic)’. The courtyard’s original landscape has been transformed from ‘Garden of the Residency’ to ‘Yard Garden’ of the Late Qajar, ‘Court of the Prisoner’ of the Pahlavi era, and finally ‘Orangery’ in the present time. The original planting plan consisted of tall trees (plane and cypress) and short tress (citrus and orange) and flowers arranged in three lower, middle and upper eye levels. The water-supply order in the center, including pools and fountains, has more or less maintained its structure. However, the layouts of parterres have changed due to both physical and non-physical intervention subjects. The aesthetics of the Zand dynasty have remained in the courtyard landscape until the days of Mozaffar al-Din Shah (about 140 years), and since then their visual character has been transformed and confined to the lower and middle visual eye levels. Therefore, a set of actions in the parterres and the new planting plan also suggested for landscape restoration.
Keywords: Citadel, Planting Plan, Landscape, Garden, Zand dynasty.
The Karim Khan Zand citadel or haram is a combination of residential spaces with service facilities (baths and stables) and security (guards) with a defensive structure on a limited scale and the most important Zandian building in Shiraz’s historical context and the largest brick building in the Zandiyeh complex. The building used to be inhabited during the Zandian period and has remained the seat of the Pars state governors in the Qajar era. In the Pahlavi period, in 1311 (1932 AD) or in 1315 (1936), was converted to Fars State Prison until 1345 (1966) and finally, in 1351 (1972), was listed in the Iranian National Monuments List. Such varied and heterogeneous transformations in usage, in the geometric structure of the plots, the planting plan and the interior views of the courtyard of the citadel, have brought about changes that affect our current understanding of citadel architecture and its spatial-visual arrangement. At present, the citadel of the courtyard is about 96 to 74 square meters of space covered with orange trees, which is not fully in line with historical photographs and documentation. Its layouts have changed throughout history, and a building was erected in the middle of the courtyard in the Qajar era, all of which has been destroyed.
Reading these changed can be useful in a number of reasons: First, it can help to recognize the planting and aesthetics of the Zandian days in the architecture of the courtyard in which the citadel is a key building. Second, its results can facilitate the achievement of a more comprehensive and accurate landscape restoration plan for the citadel, and third, an examination of its evolution can serve as a basis for the correct re-creation of the courtyard of the other Zandian buildings. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to investigate the changes of the courtyard landscape in two categories: a) landscape (“planting plan”, “water order” and “geometry of plots”) and b) architectural elements (“adjoining building” and “separating architectural elements”) from the era of Zandian up to now. A) What changes have the trees planted in the landscape of the citadel since the time of Zand, and what was the plan for planting and arranging the water in the courtyard? (B) What were the mansions or adjoining mansions in the courtyard, and what effects did it have on the plots and its axes of vision in subsequent periods? And (c) What would be the solutions to correct the current landscape of the Citadel based on a review of its changes?
Identified Traces
The studies of the written and visual documents show that the developments of the courtyard can be classified into four stages as follows. The first period, which begins in the days of Zandian, eventually leads to the Qajar, the Pahlavi and the contemporary, and in each period, there are characteristics that give the courtyard a specific identity of that period. These stages are:
A) Formation (Zandian): For the first time in the book entitled The History of the Gitgosha, the courtyard of the citadel is referred to as the Garden of the Residency. German Karsten Niebuhr and William Franklin of England, who came to Shiraz at the time of Karim Khan and Ja’far Khan, respectively, do not give an account of the courtyard. Therefore, accurate information on the characteristics of the courtyard landscape and the order of planting and its plant type cannot be found in this period.
B) Transformation (Qajarian): Sir Robert Carpenter, an Englishman who visited Shiraz during the Fath Ali Shah period, described his meeting with Hussein Ali Mirza Farmanfarma, the governor of Fars, in the courtyard. This description indicates that the “plantain” is a key tree in the early Qajar citadel, which has a Zandiyeh tradition. The first photographs from the citadel of the citadel date back to the middle of Mozaffar al-Din Shah. These photos contain three key images taken around 1319 AH (1902) by Mirza Hassan Photographer (about 140 years after the citadel was built). From the analysis of these three photographs, it can be concluded that in the Mozaffar al-Din Shah period no trace of the colorful flowers of the Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar period can be found. The northern and southern plots are rectangular and have no further divisions, and during this period the “tree planting plan” in the citadel was divided into two groups: Plantain and cypress trees and Orange trees and other citrus fruits.
C) De-Functionalizing and demolition (Pahlavi): Changing the function of the citadel to prison during the Pahlavi era led to the cutting down of cedar and plane trees. By drawing a north-south wall next to the Qajar Mansion, which had become a prison ward, two eastern and western courtyards were practically formed, and by building another wall to the east of the building, the eastern courtyard was also divided into two parts. Accordingly, the original rectangular plots of the citadel were divided into smaller pieces, and even some of them adjacent to the Qajar mansion were removed.
D) Restoration (Islamic Republic): The restoration of the citadel, which began in the early 1350s (1971s), continued after the victory of the Islamic Revolution. However, the restoration of the mansion preceded the courtyard. During this period, key elements of the citadel courtyard, including the waterfront and the plot, were preserved longitudinally in the east-west direction of the building, but the main trees in the landscape, cedar and sycamore, were overlooked. Due to the limited flowering space inside the small plots, the tradition of planting flowers on the margins of the main plots in the Persian garden was not practiced.
From the aesthetic point of view, the courtyard of the citadel should be seen as a small example of the Iranian garden, which has been harmonized with the requirements of a military-residential space. The use of plane trees in the periphery of longitudinal plots is intended to create the most shade on the paths within the citadel, and the cedar trees that were formerly planted along the main axis of the Persian garden were moved to the interior spaces of the plots to create a two-sided main wall. Restoration plans over the past few decades, ignoring historical documentation, did not fully comply with the plots division system and were limited to preserving the original orange trees from the original garden plantation. This has reduced the courtyard garden to “an orange garden”. The consequence of this change is the disappearance of the visual-aesthetic system of the courtyard perspective, which has ruled for at least fourteen decades. Since according to the Venice Charter (1964), Florence (1981) and the Rome Historical Gardens Charter (2003), no change to the Historic Garden is possible without historical backing and documentation, so it is suggested that the first set of remedial actions be put on the agenda below:
(A) The side corridors created in the northern and southern plots in front of the side porches should be removed and temporary paths shall be used to communicate between the two plots without interfering with the geometry of the plot.
B) In the first stage, the cedar trees should be planted between the northern and southern plots and in the east-west direction, while preserving the current visual integration in the midrange landscape, providing an important part of associating the citadel garden with reference to the Iranian garden mentality.
C) In the second stage, by planting plane trees along the main axis of the center, the visual geometry of the axis as the most prominent visual cone in the citadel landscape is reconstructed. Other planting of planes around the plots can be done at other times.


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