We arrive just after opening hours but the kind operator lets us enter the crazy shaped elevator in the Azadi Tower in Tehran. The submerged entrance resembles a 70ties James Bond movie set. The elevator rattles to the top and the noise of city traffic is far away. We are the only guests in the top of the tower, where lamps divide the space in different colors.
Hexagonal windows provide a great view of the snowy high peaks north of the city, they ablaze in the setting sun. All the traffic on the square below us suddenly comes to a stop on the roundabout and then all traffic disappears in different directions.
A motorcade with about twenty cars moves on to the square. I know there is a summit of Gas Exporting Countries Forum going on where Vladimir Putin is the main guest. The cars stop to take a look up at the Azadi Tower. His deadpan face appears in a car window. We look back from the top of the tower through the hexagonal frame. Vladimir Vladimirovich closes his window and continues with his escort to the airport. The rear lights of the motorcade seem to create the shape a Russian Orthodox cross.
Descending through the narrow stairways I experience the totality of the tower’s design. The stairwell has been designed in such a perfect way in chiseled dark granite that it makes me dizzy. The history of the Shayad or Azadi Tower is politically charged and yet I experience the design as something completely new, as if nothing of the history can stick to the building.
In an interview, the Tower’s architect Hossein Amanat compares “her” to a child whose life destination is unknown at birth. She came of age in the late 1970s, due to the revolution and regime change, she was given a different name when her role suddenly changed. Or is this a typical case of “Architectomancy” similar to “Geomancy”, through which practitioners of wizardry prognosticated the future via geometric shapes or other magical phenomena, was practiced in Iran long ago. Also, according to the late archeologist and historian Arthur Upham Pope, Iranian architecture has always been “magical and invocational in character.” He called it “guiding with a formative motif of cosmic symbolism by which man was brought into communication and participation with the powers of Heaven.” Often Westerners write about “Oriental exoticism” to engender mystic enthusiasm in their readers, but rarely do they believe in their scientiﬁc validity. This time Shahyad did perform magic as the unexpected really took place.” – Morteza Baharloo, “Shahyad (Azadi), A Monument of Many Faces,” in Art Lies
Photo by Martine Stig