Pavilion structure in Persianate gardens: reflections in the textual and visual media

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Gharipour, Mohammad
Allen, Douglas C.
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The pavilion structure has been an integral part of Persianate gardens since its earliest appearance at the Achaemenid garden in Pasargadae (sixth century BC). Despite its significance, the scholarly focus on the study of gardens has somewhat sidelined the study of the pavilions and even neglected the cultural context of the development of the pavilions. The pavilion as a theme appears after the maturation of the concept of paradise as a garden in Near Eastern mythological and religious texts. The Quran is the first known text that integrated the two concepts of pavilion and garden in the imaginary paradise. Later, Persian poetry defines specific relationships between human beings, pavilions, and gardens while stressing the psychological and material values of pavilions and gardens. Three types of resources were consulted to reconstruct the image of pavilion: literary documents (including mythology and poetry), different types of art (ranging from painting to carpets), and historical accounts. Referring to these allows us to explore the diversity of the pavilion's image in each medium and its degree of correspondence to reality. This dissertation explores the diversity of the pavilion (tent, kiosk, or building), its spatial, formal, and functional relationship with gardens as a flexible entity, and its cultural use. The historical accounts discussed in this dissertation prove the existence of buildings in gardens, the common use of tents as temporary residences, gender specificity of pavilions, and the multi-functionality of gardens for encampments, administrative affairs, and pilgrimages. The pavilion as building is well documented in both visual and literary media. While poetry draws a clear boundary between the garden and building as separate entities, painting merges or separates the building and garden (as courtyard or planted area) physically, formally, and symbolically. The building in poetry is usually associated with the materialistic world, whereas the garden is often associated with the ideal world. This is, to some extent, visible in paintings in which the geometrical design of the building and the courtyard acts as a reference to the material world. The frequent reference to iwan as a consistent design element in painting and travelers' accounts proves its significance as an intermediate space between inside and outside the pavilion as a building. Tents in gardens appear less frequently in poetry and painting than they do in textual sources. On the other hand, historical documents rarely point to kiosks or semi-open spaces in gardens, whereas kiosks are widely developed in paintings. The examination of paintings also reveals formal and functional similarities between the throne and kiosk. The kiosk appears in close physical and visual contact with natural components of gardens, and even serves as a connector between the garden and building. The pavilion as a kiosk is, however, to a large extent absent in poetry and historical documents probably due to the dominant interest in buildings. This research proves the dominant cultural view on the functional flexibility of Persianate gardens between the 14th and 18th centuries in using pavilion structures varying in form, function, and scale.
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