According to the experts Iranian architecture can be divided as follows:
1. Prehistoric architecture which includes first human huts till the formation of the Achaemenids;
Tepe Zaghe in Qazvin, Tepe Sialk in Kashan, Tepe Hasanlu in West Azerbaijan, Elamite city of Dur-Untash near Susa are some of the old civilizations who were Iran plateau dwellers. Sialk civilization is considered as the first human settlement in world history. No doubt, the initiative system of devising and constructing a potable water treatment in Chogha Zanbil, Khuzestan province is man's first invention for water treatment. Ekbatana, the Medes (first Aryan kingdom) capital is the first Iranian towns built on architectural and urban principles. The below picture shows an Elamite city (citadel) which has lofty walls and towers and is built on a hill as their other cities.
Pic 1: A remained relief in Susa from the last Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal which reveals his brutal campaign against Susa (Elamites) in 647 BC is triumphantly recorded in this relief. Here, flames rise from the city as Assyrian soldiers topple it with pickaxes and crowbars and carry off the spoils.
2. Parsi style which includes Achaemenids Architecture;
The center of the vast Achaemenid Empire which was spreading from Indus River in India to Nile River in Egypt and from Danub in Europe to Central Asia, was focused on Pasargadae, Parse (Persepolis) and Susa. The striking feature of Achaemenid architecture is great dimensions of the halls. Their buildings & palaces were built with the idea of creating a heavenly landscape; the long columns are symbolic heaven trees. Tomb of Cyrus the Great and Pasargadae palace which is situated about 600m from the tomb of Cyrus the Great are survived after millenniums to reveal the grandeur of Achaemenid first capital. In fact, Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenids. its inscriptions on how Persepolis was built in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian languages beside of eternal guards, cypress trees, 28 different nations from the entire empire who are attending Noruz, stairways, and so and so are the other symbols of their mastership.
Pic 2: Panoramic view from Persepolis
3. Parthian style which includes architecture of Parthian till the invent of Islam in Iran;
Diakonov, the Soviet archaeologist, considered the Parthian architecture as the follower of Seleucid art, Alexander successors; anyway, this idea cannot be applied to all aspects of Parthian architecture as we see matureness of their art in the next era, Sasanians. Parthian artists are the first who used tore to render the walls with geometrical lines and floral designs. Sasanians built big towns whose remnants are scattered throughout Iran today. The outstanding feature of their architecture is high-rising brick vaults as Tagh-e Kasra in Ctesiphon (Sasanian capital city which is located in present day Iraq on the bank of Tigris River) whose vault spans 75 feet. Naqsh-e Rostam, the stone carving monument of Sasanian architecture is situated near Darab Gerd in Fars Province; it’s an embodiment of the victory of Shapur I over the Roman Emperor Valerian (260 AD). Bishapur is another town of Sasanian period built by Shapur I in Fars Province. Construction of huge gates and massive domes was a common practice in Sasanian architecture, which reappears in the mosques and palaces of Islamic period.
Pic 3: Ctesiphon after Renovation, Present Iraq
4. First Islamic architecture period or Khorasani style;
The first Islamic centuries are the time of simple mosques due to fresh and strong philosophy of the new religion. Isfahan Jame' Mosque first foundation has been built in this era.
Pic 4: Isfahan Jame Mosque, this mosque enjoys a dozen of renewal and reconstruction during the centuries till now.
5. Second one which is known as Razi style;
Arabs invaders were Iran’s governors for 2 centuries till they gave away to Samanid. Meanwhile new movements, facing different cultures cause to this new style in architecture which adorned the Islamic buildings with Iranian domes, arcs and portals. Mil-e Gonbad-e Ghabus in Golestan Province is one the best reminiscent of this style.
Pic 5: Mil-e Gonbad-e Ghabus, Golestan Province
6. Third period is named as Azari style;
It’s the time of Mongol aggressors who ruled for three centuries, after primary ravages they introduced with Iranian cultures and made a golden Era in art due to their Iranian ministers. There are more ornaments in this style as tile and tore. Gonbad-e Soltaniyeh, Zanjan province which is one of world heritage sites and Masjed-e Kabud Tabriz, East Azerbaijan Province are reminded from this time.
Pic 6: Blue Masque, Tabriz
7. Fourth Islamic Architecture period is Isfahani style;
By the dominant Iranian dynasty of Safavid (1502-1736), Iranian artist get together around the central government in Isfahan and create masterpieces of Iran’s cultural heritage. Every aspect of architecture reached its climax and urbanism found its way. Afsharid, Zand and Qajars dynasties continued this style till the end of 19th century, but in this time their ornament digressed from the rich Iranian architecture and some cheap details as mirror pieces in holy shrines and mosque appeared. Meydan-e naqsh-e Jahan, Si-o se pol, Chehel Sotun palace in Isfahan province are the sample of this style.
Pic 7: Imam Mosque portico, Isfahan
8. Contemporary architecture.
Our contemporary architecture began in the first Pahlavi (early 1920s). The main efforts were devoted to merge the traditional elements with modern designs. The Azadi Tower (Shahyad Square) as the symbol of Tehran by Hossein Amanat, Tehran University main campus, National Museum of Iran by Andre Godard as reminiscent of Iran's historical architectural heritage, former Iran Senate House with the front view as the chains of justice of Nowshiravan by Heydar Ghiai, Tehran's Museum of Contemporary Arts which enjoys on Iranian Badgirs for exterior design and Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim spiraling for interior design by Kamran Diba in Tehran and Nader Shah mausoleum by Houshang Seyhoun, Ferdowsi mausoleum by Karim TaherZade near Mashad are some of them.
Pic 8: Azadi Tower (Shahyad Square)
Pic 9: Iran-Bastan Museum entrance