The Azadi Tower (Persian: Borj-e Āzādī, literally the “Freedom Tower” or “Liberty Tower”), formerly known as the Shahyad Tower ( Borj-e Shahyād, meaning “King’s Memorial Tower”), is a monument in Tehran , the capital of Iran, marking the west entrance to the city, and one of the symbols of the city.
The architect, Hossein Amanat, won a competition to design the monument, which combines elements of the architecture of Sassanid and Achaemenid eras, and Post-Islamic Iranian architecture.
Amanat, a Baha’i, was driven from the country by the Revolution of 1979 and the removal of religious pluralism.
This tower is part of the Azadi Cultural Complex, located in Tehran’s Azadi Square in an area of some 50,000 m². There are several fountains around the base of the tower and a museum underground.
Built with white marble stone from the Isfahan Province, it includes eight thousand blocks of stone. The stones were all located and supplied by Ghanbar Rahimi, whose knowledge of the quarries was second to none and who was known as “Soltan e Sang e Iran” (Iran’s Sultan of Stone). The shape of each block was calculated by computer, and programmed to include all the instructions for the building’s work. The actual construction of the tower was carried out, and supervised by Iran’s finest master stonemason, Ghaffar Davarpanah Varnosfaderani. The main financing was provided by a group of five hundred Iranian industrialists. The inauguration took place on October 16, 1971.
The iconic Monument des Martyrs in Algiers (built, 1982) shows a strong influence by this monument, in its general design as well as its details.
Built in 1971 in commemoration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire, this “gateway into Tehran” was named the “Shahyad” (King’s Memorial) in honor of the Shah, but was changed to “Azadi” (Freedom) after the Revolution of 1979. It is 50 meters (164 ft) tall and completely clad in cut marble.
The entrance to the tower is directly underneath the main vault and leads into the Azadi Museum on the basement floor. The black walls and proportions of the building are austere. Heavy doors open onto a crypt with subdued lighting issuing from showcases, each containing an object. Gold and enamel pieces, painted pottery, marble, miniature, and paintings are located among black marble walls. A concrete mesh forms the ceiling. Approximately fifty pieces have been selected, each representing a particular period in Iran’s history.
The main display is occupied by a copy of the Cyrus Cylinder (the original is in the British Museum). A translation of the cuneiform inscription on the cylinder is inscribed in golden letters on the wall of one of the galleries leading to the museum’s audio-visual department; opposite, a similar plaque lists the Twelve Points of the White Revolution. Next to the Cyrus Cylinder, a gold plaque commemorates the original presentation of the museum to the Mohammad Reza Pahlavi by the Mayor of Tehran.
Among the earliest items on display are square flagstones, gold sheeting, and terra cotta tablets from Susa, covered with uniform cuneiform characters. Potteries, ceramics, varnished porcelains (such as a seventh-century blue and gold dish from Gorgan), an illuminated Koran, and miniatures highlight milestones in the country’s history up to the nineteenth century, which is represented by two painted panels from Empress Farah Pahlavi’s collection.
The original show, devised in 1971, was replaced in 1975 by a new one which invited visitors to discover Iran’s geographic and natural diversity along with its fundamental historical elements. The landscapes and works of art, the faces and achievements, calligraphied poems and technical undertakings, the life and hopes of a population were shown through its ancient miniatures as well as through the smiling studiousness of Iran’s new generation of children. This creative “Sound and Light” performance, devised by a Czechoslovakian firm, required 12,000 metres of film, 20,000 colour slides, 20 movie projectors, and 120 slide projectors. Five computers operated the entire system.