Isfahan’s Artwork & Architecture

Freshman (College 1st year) ・Architecture ・MLA ・7 Sources

My chosen metropolis is Isfahan in Iran, and my issue of interest is Isfahan's structure and artwork. Isfahan City lies in central Iran, and it is famous for its magnificent structure and artwork that makes it one of the world's most visited cities (Rizvi 59). In the 2011 Iranian Census, the Great Isfahan Region recorded a population of 3,793,104, making it the Iran's 2d highest populated metropolitan area after Tehran. The Counties that represent Isfahan metropolitan city include Shahinshahr, Najafabad, Falavarjan, Khomeynishahr, Borkhar, Mobarakeh, Lenjan, Tiran o Karvan, and Jay (Zali, Nader et al. 96). Isfahan is universal for its Persian–Islamic architecture and artworks, characterized by means of several beautiful boulevards, palaces, included bridges, minarets, and mosques (Taghizadeh et al. 1). The Isfahan’s Naghsh-e Jahan Square forms one of the world's largest city squares, and the city has been selected as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (Rizvi 61). Besides, Isfahan has a broad range of historical monuments, which form part of its famous artworks and architecture. This paper explores Isfahan City, with the focus on its architecture and artworks, as well as their impacts on the City's tourism.

History of Isfahan’s Architecture and Artwork

Isfahan stands as one of the world's most remarkable Islamic cities, and it is currently the third largest city in Iran. The city has both pre-Islamic and Islamic buildings and although it has existed since the pre-historic times, much of what makes it an outstanding tourist attraction today started in the late 16th century during the era of Shah Abbas I, who made Isfahan the capital of his then Safavid dynasty (Rizvi 62). He built several mosques and libraries, which had remarkable due to their scale of architecture and the beauty of their decorations (Taghizadeh 2). During that time, the population of Isfahan was approximately 600,000 people, and the city had an astonishing number of buildings, including 48 religious schools, 160 mosques, over 270 public baths, and about 1,800 shops (Taghizadeh 3). Isfahan rapidly developed into a melting pot of cultures and travelers and was named 'Nesf-e-Jahan,' a Persian phrase for 'half the world (Rizvi 63).'

The Isfahan’s buildings exhibit some of the specific artistic characteristics that emerged from the Persian region. For instance, the gates of the mosques (eivans), are gigantic in scale, with tile works of vibrant colored decorations (Zali, Nader et al. 98). Such mosaics, on a practical level, protected the underneath bricks, as well as lifted the buildings with intricate geometric designs and brighter color (Zali, Nader et al. 99). The Isfahan artisan’s skill level reached such a stature that they could overlay all the curved arches, small niches, and buildings' domes with minutely complex and detailed patterns. Some of such artworks and architectural designs also reflected calligraphy translated or transferred in tile work from the page to the wall. Such calligraphy further lifted the beauty of Isfahan's buildings by embellishing them with the word of God (Rizvi 64).

Most of the artisans who created such buildings and designed their decorations were perceived to have been influenced by Sufism, an Islamic spiritual exploration (Zali, Nader et al. 102). Additionally, the Isfahan's architecture was not just an exercise in building the city but also a way of opening the souls to the divine wonder through the most extraordinary scale, as well as the aesthetic value they created (Taghvaei et al. 18). In the year 1979, Isfahan received the UNESCO world heritage status both due to its architectural significance, as well as its reflection of the tangible connection between architectural design and Islamic customs and beliefs (Taghvaei et al. 21).

Impact of Isfahan’s Architecture and Artwork on the City’s Tourism

Isfahan is considered one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and forms Iran’s major economic and cultural hub (Ali et al. 47). Isfahan City has a broad range of magnificent architectural structures and artworks, which contribute significantly to its high level of a tourist attraction (Ali et al. 49). The following are some of the Isfahan’s architecture and artworks that make it one of the Iran’s major foreign exchange earners in the context of tourism.

Imam Square (Naqsh-e Jahan)

Before Isfahan became the capital of the Safavid dynasty, there existed a square named Naqsh-e Jahan (Image of the world) in the Imam square’s vicinity. The square got enlarged during the Shah Abbas the Great’s era to almost its current size and Isfahan’s most historic buildings got constructed around the square (Ali at al. 51). During the era of Shah Abbas, the square became an area for hosting various events, including festivals, dramatics, polo, and military parades (Ali et al. 53). The south and the north of the square has two embedded stone gates of the polo, and the square spans 500 meters in length from north to south. Its width is 150 meters from west to east. The square forms one of the city’s greatest tourist attraction and a majority of foreign tourists have the belief that Imam square is one of the world’s greatest squares (Ali et al. 55).

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque forms another Isfahan’s masterpiece of architecture and artwork of the sixteenth century, which got constructed under the order issued by Shah Abbas I (Ali et al. 55). The structure took 18 years to complete, and its inside tile work decorations from the platform to the top are finished with mosaic tiles. In the context of the mosque’s architectural grandeur, most foreign archaeologists believe the structure can hardly be considered as the work of human hands (Ali et al. 56). The fine finishes of tile work coupled with the building's magnificent design and decorations make it an attractive site for several foreign tourists.

Imam Mosque

The Imam Mosque is located at the southern side of Imam Square, and its construction started during the era of Shah Abbas I (Cantone 119). The building's extensions and decorations during the rule of Shah Abbas I successors. The Iman Mosque stands as a masterpiece of the sixteenth century from the viewpoint of its architecture, stone carving, and tile work. One of the most interesting features of the mosque, which makes it attract several visitors, is its production of echo sound at the center of the massive dome at the southern section (Cantone 121). The Imam Mosque is 52 meters in height with 48 meters' minarets. Besides, it has a large one-piece marble and other stone slabs, as well as adornments that give it extremely spectacular views and makes it attract several foreign viewers (Cantone 122).

Ali Qapu

Ali Qapu forms a unique example of Isfahan’s palace architecture during the Safavid era, which got constructed under Shah Abbas I's order in the early Eleventh Century A.H. It is where the monarch held his audiences and received envoys (Rizvi 65). The palace has five floors, with each floor having special decorations. A royal parlor was added to the structure during the era of Shah Abbas II, and the sovereign and his guests could watch, from the elegant building's halls, the illuminations, polo, dramatics, and fireworks that occurred at the Nagsh-e-Jahan Square (Rizvi 66). The building’s unique archaic architecture has a linkage to the Safavid era, which makes it a major tourist attraction.

Friday (Al-Jum’a) Mosque

The Isfahan’s Friday Mosque forms one of the Iran’s post-Islamic historical monuments, which got constructed during the Fourth Century A.H and later expanded during the periods of Seljuk, al_Muzaffar and Shah Abbas I (Last-Name 160). A unique feature of the mosque that makes it attract several visitors is the visibility of the writings of various types of prose lines and poetry on all its sections. Besides, tourists get attracted by the mosque's different architectural styles (Last-Name 164).

The Chehel Sutun (Forty Columns) Palace

The Chehel Sotune Palace got constructed during the era of Shah Abbas I and later improved during the reign of Shah Abbas II (Taghvaei et al. 23). The reflection of the hall’s twenty pillars in the pool situated opposite the palace creates a conception of forty pillars, which makes it a major attractive site for tourists. The perceived forty pillars represent the multitude and quantity in Iran and the reason for which the palace is referred to as Chehel Sotun(Taghvaei et al. 24).


Isfahan stands as one of the world's most visited cities with magnificent architecture and artworks. The above-described architectural works are just a handful of over 160 mosques, 1,800 commercial buildings, 48 madrasas, and 280 baths that have existed in the Isfahan City since the sixteenth century with attractive and admirable architectural designs and artworks. Today, Isfahan is considered as one of the best tourist centers, and the city accounts for a significant share of the Iran’s total foreign exchange earnings.

Works Cited

Ali, Assari, Maghreby Shahead, and Mousavi Nik Maryam. "Investigation of Smart Growth in Traditional Islamic Culture: Case Study of Isfahan City in Iran."Journal of Geography and Regional Planning 10.4 (2017): 47-56. Web.

Cantone, C. "Isfahan And Its Palaces: Statecraft, Shilhringism And the Architecture of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran By SUSSAN BABAIE." Journal of Islamic Studies 22.1 (2010): 119-122. Web.

Last-Name. "Distribution and Determining of Tourist Attractions and Modeling of Tourist Cities for The City of Isfahan-Iran." American Journal of Economics and Business Administration 1.2 (2009): 160-166. Web.

Rizvi, Kishwar. "Kishwar Rizvi. Review Of "Isfahan And Its Palaces: Statecraft, Shi'ism And The Architecture Of Conviviality In Early Modern Iran" By Sussan Babaie." 59-67. Web.

Taghizadeh, Katayoun. "Islamic Architecture in Iran, A Case Study on Evolutionary of Minarets of Isfahan." Architecture Research 2.2 (2012): 1-6. Web.

Taghvaei, Masoud, Neda Rahmani, and Mahtab Taghvaei. "Evaluation of Physical and Framework Condition of Administrative Buildings in Order to Crisis Management In 5Th Sector Isfahan City." International Journal of Regional Development 3.1 (2015): 18-24. Web.

Zali, Nader, et al. "City Branding Evaluation and Analysis of Cultural Capabilities of Isfahan City." European Spatial Research and Policy 21.2 (2014): 96-115. Web.

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