Knowledge-Based Documentation of Iranian Architectural Heritage*

Document Type : Research Paper


Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran


Knowledge-based documentation of architectural heritage initiates from recording interconnected attributes of historic buildings in analytic inventories. Features of a building in relation with its context and environment, history and evolution, people and creators, historical events, alternations and different functions during time should be recorded. Therefore a building cannot be described isolate by its physical attributes or architectural elements. Formation of a historic building is strongly related to several phenomenon such as time, place, people, etc. Besides, it is altered during time depending on historic events, life styles, change of use, etc. Consequently different levels of information are needed to be gathered. Basic data consists of name, location or history and date of a building. Complementary information includes evolution and usage during time. For instance details of pathology and damages of a building or its context such as the adjacent fabric, the cultural landscape, the surrounding environment, etc. can be documented. For this purpose the systematic inventories must follow detailed categorizations of metadata standards. They must be accepted by organizations, authorities, professionals or individuals involved in recording heritage buildings and used as a coherent reference. Besides, analytic inventories are fundamental part of cultural heritage databases. They speed up the onsite surveys by heritage experts though providing a detailed list of attributes, and help the standard distribution and retrieval of cultural heritage data specially over the internet. In this paper we aimed to propose an analytic inventory for recording the architectural heritage of Iran.  At first we have studied the available inventories for registered buildings of the country. Study of several dossiers of recorded buildings showed various lists from 1930 to present and lack of a coherent and standard system was evident. This is the challenge of recognition and conservation of heritage buildings in Iran which must be solved. We surveyed metadata standards or inventories available in the world for cultural heritage. Our reference was Core Data Index for Monuments and Sites that is distributed by ICOM for documenting architectural heritage of Europe.  Accordingly we have surveyed case studies of major typologies of Iranian architecture such as mosque, caravanserai, bazaar or house and completed the inventory in Persian. During the process of data survey, we have faced some detailed specifications that could not be listed under the Core Data Index items, such as attributes of Persian architecture, the environment and setting of a building, its pathology record, etc. Therefore we have extended our core inventory to a specific list of items using national or international principles such as the Recommendation for Record of National Heritage Buildings in Iran, or ICOMOS Sofia Document, and added items to describe the context and setting of a heritage building such the environment, the detailed physical situation and the sizes and dimensions. Finally we have completed the extended detailed inventory for the selected case studies. We have concluded our research with discussing the necessity of information management systems or knowledge bases for maintaining analytic inventories of heritage buildings and distributing them over internet to the end users.


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