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Iranian Modern Architecture: An Introduction to Incredible Buildings

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Since sanctions lifted, Iran has seen an influx of eager tourists ready to experience the country's unique heritage and society, with tour operators and travel companies racing to book new trips or open new routes. It's no mystery why. With a varied landscape and 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Iran has a lot to offer that, like Cuba, has been nearly impossible to reach for many until recently. That cultural heritage includes modern architecture, from stunning Modernist structures built during the reign of Shah Reza Pahlavi that showcase vernacular styles and Islamic tradition, as well as a new generation of contemporary designs and styles. While many intrepid travelers are racing to the Middle Eastern country to experience it before it becomes the center of a tourist influx, hopefully these structures aren't going anywhere soon. Here are some highlights and points of interest selected from a much larger body of incredible designs.

Iran Senate House (Tehran, Iran: 1955)
This home of the short-lived Iranian Senate, which existed from 1949 to 1979, features a towering dome and artful columns composed of interlocking squares. You can see a depiction of it on the Iranian 100 rial banknote. It was created by Heydar Ghiaï, a long-time professor who became the royal court architect in 1968 and later emigrated to France after the revolution. He designed numerous homes and public spaces, including an incredible drive-in theater in Tehran, a Hilton Hotel, and the Mashad Train Station, one of many built during the mid-century that showcase incredible, elegant design.

City Theater/Teatr-e Shahr (Tehran, Iran: 1972)
Ali Sardar Afkhami designed this stylish, round, 600-seat arts complex for Princess Farah Pahlavi in the '60s. Meant to be one of the city's main theater complex, it first opened in 1972, presenting Chekhov's Cherry Orchard.

Tower of Ibn Sina Mausoleum (Hamadan, Iran: 1952)
Designed by Houshang Seyhoun, a Iranian architect noted for his monuments and numerous private residences, this is a structure dedicated to science. Built in 1952 to replace a previous structure honoring Avicenna (Ibn Sina), a great thinker from Islam's golden age, the mausoleum is topped with a spindle-like tower replicating the Gonbad-e Qabus, a millennia-old architectural treasure and UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (Tehran, Iran: 1977)
Architect Kamran Diba's design referenced Iranian vernacular traditions and Persian influences, including the use of shapes that resemble desert windcatchers (badgir).

Sharifi-ha House (Tehran, Iran: 2013)
While the country's history Modernist and Persian-inspired architecture is stunning, there's something to be said about a new example of high-tech, head-spinning design. This rotating, seven-story home, created by Alireza Taghaboni of Nextoffice, can be difficult to visualize without floorplans, but the concept—a series of rotating rooms—offers a technically complicated yet impressive display of technology.

Mausoleum of Mirza Ahmad Neyrizi(Neyriz, Iran: 1975)
Another memorial masterpiece by Houshang Seyhoun, the abstract, almost prism-like forms of this monument honor an ancient calligrapher.

Rafsanjan Sports Complex ( Rafsanjan, Iran: 2001)
Seyed Hadi Mirmiran created this abstract facility by referencing the traditional designs of icehouse in the Southern region of Iran.

Tabitat Bridge (Tehran, Iran: 2014)
Leila Araghian's award-winning design for a pedestrian overpass that spanned the busy highways below utilized a dense set of twisting metal tubes to create a garden-like walkway above the city.

Eshan Pond Textile Factory (Qom, Iran: 2006)
An angular factory complex created on the industrial outskirts of the ancient city, the building draws from the forms and shapes of the textile industry, appearing like a massive, futuristic sewing machine.

Dashte-Noor Gymnasium (Mazandaran, Iran: 2013)
A curving residence hall that literally looks out over the horizon, this design by Narges Nassiri-Toosi offers a graceful spin on a form that would look at home in Zaha Hadid's portfolio.

Take In the Head-Turning Contemporary Homes of Tehran [Curbed]