The Legacy of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Contemporary Iran: An Opportunity or a Drawback

Peyman Akhgar1

1School Of Architecture, University Of Queensland, , Australia

In the nations and nation states of the Global South, the rise of modern architecture remains historically attributed to western-educated architects. Following arrivals in ‘unfamiliar settings’ these architects were faced with the challenge of how they should embrace Western modernity while maintaining local traditions. This scenario was particularly relevant to Iran in the early 1920s. Pre-modern Iran (once ancient and medieval Persia) experienced almost a hundred years of political independence while its culture came to be contested and revisited in the making of its modern identity. Among the main agents which introduced modern architecture to Iran was the French institution of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The Ecole’s system and particularly its architecture cast a critical influence over the formulation of Iran’s twentieth century architecture and remain an unfinished legacy. Within this scenario, to what extent did the Ecole serve as a suitable model of architectural education and practice in Iran? Did it enable an architectural genre which could be labelled as ‘modern’ yet ‘Iranian’? This paper expands these critical observations while accessing the contributions of the Beaux-Arts in the making of 20th-century Iranian architecture, while establishing its traces in Iranian modern architecture.


Peyman Akhgar has a Bachelors’ and Masters’ Degree in architecture from Iran and Italy. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland’s School of Architecture. His area of interest focuses on the influence of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts on the 20th-century Iranian architectural education and practice.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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