In this series, we explore wonders of architecture and interior design, with no entry criteria besides beauty as seen by the beholder. This month, Iranian-born architect, Kazem Naderi, founder of New York-based studio, NAD Projects, presents two Iranian jewels, explaining why one is a grand opera and the other a sublime symphony.


Masjid Shah, Iran © Kazem Naderi 


It’s intimidating to write about these magnificent structures, especially because many historians have done so, but the below text is a very personal account of my impressions of these two structures, and why I will go back every chance I get.

The Shah Mosque

Masjid Shah, Isfahan, Iran; early 17th-century

The Masjid Shah is rich in its layering of architecture and ornament and reminds me of the finest Safavid rugs and textiles. It reminds me of the most elaborate opera with grand sets and costumes and perhaps its no surprise that Pasolini chose to film 1001 nights at this mosque.

Walking out of the Masjid Shah feels like waking up from a rich dream, the layering of the colors and patterns, the tiles, the calligraphy, the huge columned portals and halls, the filigreed windows looking from one space into another, the courtyards, the arched porticoes. It's location at one end of the huge square and the tilt of its axis only add to its mystery and beauty.

 Masjid Shah, Iran © Kazem Naderi 


Masjid Jameh, Iran © Kazem Naderi


The Jameh Mosque

Masjid Jameh, Isfahan, Iran; late 10th-century

By contrast, the Jameh Mosque is located at the end of a modest alley and the entrance to the mosque is also quite modest. There is one main courtyard and there are very little tiled surfaces but as one spends time walking around and discovering the details and hidden spaces, the richness of the many architectural styles and details quietly reveal themselves. It’s like staring into the night sky long enough to start seeing the infinite number of stars.

The Masjid Jameh dates back to the 10th-century and is one of the oldest mosques in Iran. It spans many dynasties, and as such incorporates multiple architectural styles. It is considered to be one of the most architecturally significant structures of Islam. While the Masjid Shah reminds me of a grand opera, the Masjid Jameh reminds me of a sublime symphony.


Masjid Jameh, Iran © Kazem Naderi


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Kazem Naderi is an Iranian-born US-based architect and the founder of New York-based design studio, NAD Projects. | Follow Kazem on Instagram: @nadprojectsinc



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