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Epic Stones
Winner of the 2001 Aga Khan Architectural Award, this Tehran park marries traditional stone masonry with visionary park planning.
By Cyrus R. Sabri and Patrick Miller, FASLA

Accreted layers of conquests and invasion over thousands of years have formed a sedimentary layering of culture that is Iran today. The first recorded gardens in the world date from nearly 5,000 years ago in what is now Iran; so it was not without some sense of our own insignificance in the face of cultural evolution that two landscape architects, an American and a repatriated Iranian, set out on an assignment from Landscape Architecture to visit and report on an award-winning park in Iran's capitol, Tehran.

The 20-odd years of relative isolation from the United States following the Islamic revolution in 1979 are only a brief moment in the evolution of Iranian culture. Yet we felt that this was a pivotal time, as many cultures in the world are struggling to understand their relationship to one another.

No, we were not looking for world peace in the design of a park, and perhaps our undertaking was as much to satisfy personal questions as it was to provide this report. But what we did find was reassuring. We found a warm and friendly people who actively use their parks and have a love of nature—in many ways not that different from Americans. But we also found cultural differences and practices that we can learn from. We found a people who, while being steeped in tradition, also have parks that are creative and whimsical. Whether as a place to be in nature, a place to meet with family and friends, or a place for a political rally, parks are an important part of the Iranian social fabric.

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