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Ardalan, Nader

The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture

Ardalan, Nader

(b. Tehran, 9 March 1939).

Iranian architect, urban planner and writer. He studied architecture at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh (B.A., 1961) and at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (M. Arch., 1962). He worked in several firms in the USA, including Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, before returning to Iran to work for the National Iranian Oil Company (1964–6). In 1966 he became Design Partner for Iran's largest archictectural firm, Abdul Aziz Farman Farmaian & Associates, in Tehran, and in 1972 he set up his own practice in Tehran, the Mandala Collaborative. Ardalan, whose work ranges from private residences to master plans for new towns, is one of the most important architects to emerge from Iran in the recent past. His work reflects his particular concern for cultural and ecological aspects of architecture; in Iran it is strongly rooted in an understanding of the traditions and forms of Iranian Islam, although his buildings are in a totally contemporary idiom. Perhaps his best-known work is the Iran Center for Management Studies (1972) in Tehran, which consists of four iwans, or vaulted structures arranged formally around a central courtyard. His use of geometry, the enclosed courtyard and the vault are drawn from Islamic tradition; other traditional concepts reinterpreted in his work include the use of water and light, symbolic axes and the “paradise garden.” Other innovative works in Iran include the Behshahr Home Offices (1974), Tehran (now used as the Ministry of Industry), as well as plans for Bu Ali Sina University (1977, with Georges Candilis (1913–95)) in Hamadan and several new towns such as Nutan, near Isfahan (1978), designed with a traditional paradise garden as its axial spine.

In 1977 Ardalan moved to the USA, continuing his practice in Boston and undertaking work in Pakistan, France, Israel and Turkey, for example the Old City Preservation Plan for Jerusalem (1984) and the Ankara Sheraton Hotel Center (1985). He joined Jung/Brannen International, Boston, in 1983 and became a Principal Associate. His work in the USA covers planning, interior design and architecture. During the 1990s he was appointed Principal in charge of planning for the clean-up of Boston Harbor, including the creation of new land forms containing a sewage plant. Other projects included a prizewinning competition entry for the Citizens’ Plaza Office (1989), a triangular-shaped building set in the context of a historic site in Providence, RI. In 1998 he was chief architect for al-Sharq Waterfront, a 2.5 kilometer recreational and commercial development in Kuwait City. He has also held visiting professorships at Harvard and at Yale University, New Haven, CT.


  • with L. Bakhtiar: A Sense of Unity: The Sufi Tradition in Persian Architecture (Chicago, 1973/R 1999)
  • “Color in Safavid Architecture: The Poetic Diffusion of Light,” Iran. Stud., vii/1–2 (1974), pp. 164–78
  • “The Visual Language of Symbolic Form: A Preliminary Study of Mosque
  • Architecture,” Architecture as Symbol and Self-Identity, ed. J. G. Katz (Philadelphia, 1980), pp. 18–36
  • Blessed Jerusalem (Cambridge, MA, 1983/R 2000)
  • “On Mosque Architecture,” Architecture and Community: Building in the Islamic World Today, ed. R. Holod and D. Rastorfer (Millerton, NY, 1983), pp. 55–6
  • “Architects in America Design for Islamic Cultures,” Arts and the Islamic World, iii/3 (1985), pp. 46–50
  • “Shi῾ism and Art,” Shi῾ism: Doctrines, Thought, and Spirituality, ed. S. H. Nasr, H. Dabashi and S. V. R. Nasr (Albany, 1988), pp. 330–33
  • “Innovation and Tradition: New Design's Relevance to Cultural Heritage,” A. & Islam. World, xxiii (1993), pp. 37–40, 52
  • “Intentions and Challenges,” Building for Tomorrow, ed. A. Nanji (London and New York, 1994), pp. 96–103
  • “The Paradise Garden Paradigm,” Consciousness and Reality: Studies in Memory of Toshihiko Izutsu, ed. Sayyid Jalāl al-Dīn Āshtiyānī and others (Leiden, 2000), pp. 97–127
  • “‘Simultaneous Perplexity’: The Paradise Garden as the Quintessential Visual Paradigm of Islamic Architecture and beyond,” Understanding Islamic Architecture, ed. A. Petruccioli and K. K. Pirani (London, 2002), pp. 9–18
  • “Introduction to Urban Design and Architecture in Egypt and Bilad Al-Shem,” Architecture Re-introduced: New Projects in Societies in Change, ed. J. Abed (Geneva, 2004), p. 79
  • “Building in the Persian Gulf,” Iran: Architecture for Changing Societies, ed. P. Jodidio (Turin, 2004), pp. 75–81


  • R. Beny: Iran: Elements of Destiny (Toronto, 1978)
  • J. M. Dixon: “Cultural Hybrid—Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art,” Prog. Archit., lix/5 (1978), pp. 68–71
  • Y. Pontoizeau: “Architectures iraniennes,” Archit. Aujourd’hui, cxcv (1978), pp. 5–8, 17–24
  • A. Badshah: “A Fusion of Nature and Culture in Design” [interview], Mimar, xi (1991), pp. 36–9
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