From the preface of the book:

Volumes 19 and 20 of the Ganjnameh series introduce the most significant among extant gardens and palaces of Iran. A sum of 33 gardens and palaces, plus one major ensemble comprising many buildings, are introduced in these two volumes.
It is true that palaces and gardens are two different types of construction, and distinct examples of both types have remained. However, since palaces are usually accompanied by gardens, there are also many examples that are simultaneously a palace and a garden.
If we take no notice of the original foundations of some of the introduced works presented here—which may, according to research, date to the sixth, eighth, or ninth century—are from the eleventh through to the fourteenth century. The earlier examples have changed through centuries to match a figure according to the tastes of the time. 

Among works introduced in these two volumes, there are the most significant extant examples of the Safavid era in Esfahan and of the Zand period in Shiraz. Most of the works of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries are in Tehran, however, and show the transformation of architectural space and spatial design of buildings and gardens in the confrontation between the old traditions of design with the modern and innovative taste of the time. Particularly, comparing examples from the fourteenth century with earlier examples from the thirteenth century speaks of a dominant shift from the old traditions to the new paradigm.

The Golestan Palace ensemble, comprising the bulk of volume 19, is among the most remarkable and credible evidences to the mentioned point. Its original foundations are usually traced back to the Safavid period; nevertheless, it was developed to become the seat of government during the Qajars. The Golestan Palace ensemble comprises many different sections and buildings. Throughout the thirteenth century to the mid-fourteenth century, and even later, it has undergone many transformations, namely destruction or addition of some buildings, or the modification of existing ones. In order to better trace these changes, each building in this ensemble is introduced separately. Contrary to the standard form of the Ganjnameh series, a separate section is also included on the development history of the whole ensemble that also covers the destroyed buildings. This was aimed at providing a broad and more comprehensive history. I hereby thank the efforts of experts at the Cultural Heritage Organization and the Golestan Palace Ensemble for providing us access to preserved pictures and documents of this ensemble.

Gardens and the making of them are deeply rooted in Iranian history, and are globally renowned. The domain of the Persian Garden exceeds the political limits of past and present Iran, rather reaching a larger cultural domain pervading all the way westward to Spain, and eastward to the heart of India. However, what is presented in the current two volumes includes only a small part of what is left inside the political borders of present-day Iran, and only dating to the later centuries as mentioned above. Unfortunately, of the many gardens from the pre-Safavid era—namely Ghaznavid Gardens in Ghazni and Timurid Gardens in Samarqand (dating from the eighth century or earlier), which he built on the memory of Shiraz Gardens, and also Gardens built by the descendants of Timur in Herat, and those built by Turkmen in Tabriz (during the ninth century), only names or memories have remained.

The Persian Garden is like any other garden in that it is a composition of buildings, water and verdure in a vast area of land. The difference is in its special form, which is treated, organized, and regularly laid out, creating planned and devised sights and imagery. The garden is enclosed in a defined shape, and laid out on a flat or stepped piece of land. The internal divisions are also regularly defined with respect to the main axes. Irregular shapes or fractions of them, or curved and slanted lines do not appear in the layout of a garden. The placement of buildings is predefined and responds to hierarchy. The main building, which is often small is size, rests at the center of the garden. Auxiliary and service buildings are often placed at the side walls so as to clear the vast range of the garden. The open and closed spaces in the main buildings blend so well as if they were indistinguishable.

It is true that any composition of water and greenery can make up a space that is ecstatic and pleasurable. But in the Persian Garden, because of the designs already mentioned, nature is presented in a special form that accounts for all its richness and fame. In fact, what can be recognized from the Persian Garden is that it was not designed for permanent residence, or for its garden products, rather, it was another image which led the mind of the designer. 
The Persian Garden maker selects all elements of a garden individually, and composes them in a specific scheme with an incomparable precision, awareness, and skill so as to create a natural world apart from the surroundings. Infiniteness is meant to be manifested within the limits of a garden, exposing another facet of nature—as if to delve into the origins and disclose the essence or substance of nature. The Persian Garden maker attempts to reflect a flawless world devoid of all errors and defects of the mundane world, and create a garden as if cutting a gem out of the surrounding nature. He represents a glimpse of heavenly themes on the fringes of earthly life, and provides a pleasurable place for the souls of humans, as if composing a sonnet to the Garden of Paradise.

Kambiz Haji-Qassemi
winter 2015


The majority of the photographers of Ganjnameh, Volumes 19 and 20 from 1995 until 2001 were Keivan Jourabchi, Navid Mardoukhi Rowhani and Behnam Qelich-Khani. The rest of the photos of these volumes were shot by Hossein Farahani in 2015. Both of these volumes were published in summer 2016.

Some pages of volume nineteen; Palaces and Gardens (part 1 ):


Some pages of volume twenty; Palaces and Gardens (part 2 ):