Traditionalists’ Tradition and Architects’ Traditionalism

Document Type : Research Paper



Today, the conflict between tradition and modernity is the inclusive and controversial dialogue in educational and professional circles of Iranian architecture. Perhaps many of those participated in these debates do not yet have a clear definition of tradition and modernity. Sometimes the meaning of tradition is positive and good and is a sign of identity, authenticity and cultural richness; and sometimes it means old, outdated and obsolete. The first step is to define and interpret term tradition in three directions: 1. The sacred (divine) tradition: sunnat Allah (God’s tradition) mentioned in Qur’an representing the way of salvation to human. This tradition has not changed and transformed. 2- The experienced tradition: a tradition created by human’s experience, trial and error and make them needless of repeating the trails of their predecessors. This tradition can change and evolve over time. 3- Legendary (mythical) tradition: a tradition arising from unmet needs and demands of the people. Since they have not been realized, they have been considered unattainable, eternal and sacred. In the following, such questions arise: 1. How long has emerged traditionalism? How do traditionalists think about it? And what do they think about architecture? 2. Is traditionalists’ tradition the case discussed in traditional architecture that many architects are willing to survive it? 3. Is traditionalists’ tradition in line with Iran’s cultural tradition and continuation thereof? Can it recreate the original Iranian architecture?  In response, this paper considers traditionalism as a modern adventure and raises traditionalists’ tradition a cross-time, cross-location and cross-culture tradition, which claims universality and includes all the tribes of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim. Traditional man is drowned in a sea of ​​traditions and traditionally had born, traditionally lived and traditionally would die, while traditionalists look outward to tradition. Traditionalism began during the early twentieth century with Rene Guenon’s ideas, and continued by thinkers such as Coomaraswamy, Schuon, Burckhardt and Nasr. The paper then analyzes and criticizes a work of traditional architecture that is Iran Center for Management Studies in Tehran, designed by well-known Iranian architect, Nader Ardalan, who is one of theorists of traditionalism in architecture. This criticism concludes that traditionalists’ architecture does not go beyond praise and emulation of traditional architecture and it does not have an up to date response for Iran’s present architecture even in its most worthy form. The final section of the paper addresses to describing Iran’s traditional architecture rather traditionalist architecture. In traditional architecture, the architect is a scholar and theologian man that receives teachings, facts and heavenly (sacred-divine) advices and applies them to make sense to architectural and professional achievements. An Iranian architect tries to give honor and dignity to his architectural and professional achievements. This paper concludes that architecture has two aspects: material and spiritual. Master of Traditional Iranian Architecture taught the spiritual aspect of architecture to students along with material aspect. In today's architecture training, if failed to teach spiritual aspect along with its material aspect, we have to suffice a pale imitation of architecture.