Rational poetry

Walking through design offices and flipping through archives, we’re often struck by glimpses of images that aren’t immediately decipherable — the one above, for instance. Our What’s That? series tells their stories. 


In 1966, 24-year-old architect Hossein Amanat won a competition to design Shahyad Aryamehr, a massive new monument celebrating the Persian Empire’s 2,500-year history. Arup joined the project shortly thereafter. “When I won this competition and signed the contract, my next step was to find a structural engineer,” Amanat told Bidoun magazine more than four decades later. “I had seen an article about the Sydney Opera House and the contribution Arup had made in terms of definitions of its geometry. I was really impressed, so I contacted them.”

The March 1970 issue of The Arup Journal documents this collaboration, focusing on the mathematical gymnastics that enabled the dramatic forms of the 148-foot-tall marble-clad structure.

The building in 2013 — originally called Shahyad Aryamehr, it is now known as Azadi Tower.

“Although the monument has the qualities of a piece of sculpture,” engineer Peter Ayres wrote in the Journal, “considerable rationalization of the details of the geometry has occurred during its development, with no loss of free form effect.”


Graph showing geometrical relationship governing forms throughout the structure

The post’s top image illustrates the form developed for an interior dome located near the monument’s apex. Based on traditional Iranian architecture, the design arranges triangular planes in repeating patterns, responding sensitively to the shape of the walls at that location in the building.


Dome section (image at top shows it in plan)

Equally complex geometry can be found throughout the structure; read the original Arup Journal article to learn more.

arch azadi tower

Section of main arch

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