Traditional House Types Revived and Transformed: A Case Study in Sabzevar, Iran

  • Karin RaithEmail author
  • Hassan Estaji
Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


This chapter is not primarily concerned with the preservation of historical buildings—for which it is often too late—but rather with the question of how continuity between the cultural heritage and contemporary architecture can be established. In Sabzevar, Iran, many culturally valuable residential buildings have been demolished in recent decades due to the rapid economic and physical growth of the city and profound social changes. As real estate prices have risen, the density in inner-city areas has also increased, negatively impacting the historic urban fabric of low-rise courtyard houses. The traditional extended families have been gradually replaced by small households who prefer small apartments. Thus, it seems that the evolution of autochthonous house types has ended and that in the future only global standard housing will be constructed. An analysis of fourteen listed residential buildings revealed their careful adaptation to the desert climate. The oldest buildings, least influenced by European architecture, provided the best thermal comfort. Nowadays, however, electric air-conditioning is preferred to traditional temperature management. Although many houses could be adapted to new ways of living and working, the prospects of financial profit by rebuilding a property often outweigh the appreciation of a building’s cultural significance. While architectural heritage is neglected in favour of progress, the loss of local identity is being mourned. The paper highlights the surprising potential of two traditional house types to be transformed, typologically developed and applied to new urban developments, and it presents arguments for their revival:
  • Time-tested environmentally adapted structures help saving energy.

  • A flexible layout and neutral spaces provide the best options for an adaptation to new lifestyles.

  • A reinterpretation of traditional typologies by use of advanced construction methods and contemporary design vocabulary enhances the local character.


Cultural heritage Environmental adaptation Flexibility Reinterpretation Traditional house typologies Sabzevar 


  1. Deimary N (2012) Destruction of historical fabric of Zavvare (in Persian) Accessed 11 May 2016
  2. Drouville G (1819) Voyage en Perse pendant les années 1812 et 1813. Paris, pp 84–85Google Scholar
  3. Estaji H (2017) Flexible configuration and environmental adaptation in traditional houses of Sabzevar, Iran. Doctoral Thesis at University of Applied Arts ViennaGoogle Scholar
  4. Estaji H, Raith K (2016) The role of Qanat and irrigation networks in the process of city formation and evolution in the Central Plateau of Iran, the case of Sabzevar. In: Arefian FF, Moeini SHI (eds) Urban change in Iran. Springer International PublishingGoogle Scholar
  5. Keall EJ (1974) Some thoughts on the early Iwan. In: Kouymjian D (ed) Near Eastern numismatics, iconography, epigraphy, and history, studies in honor of George C. Miles. American University of Beirut, Beirut, pp 123–130Google Scholar
  6. Kermani-Moqaddam M (2002) Registration report: the Baqani house (in Persian). Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organisation (ICHTO)Google Scholar
  7. Kheirabadi M (2000) Iranian cities: formation and development. Syracuse University Press, USGoogle Scholar
  8. Mahdavi S (2009) QAJAR DYNASTY xii. The Qajar-Period Household [Online]. Encyclopaedia Iranica. Accessed 12 Sept 2015
  9. Mostowfi A (1997) Šarḥ-e zendegāni-e man: tāriḵ-e ejtemāʿi wa edāri-e dowra-ye Qājariya, 3 vols., Tehran, 1942, tr. Nayer Mostofi Glenn as The Administrative and Social History of the Qajar Period, 3 vols., Costa Mesa, Calif. I, 177–78Google Scholar
  10. Nafisi S (2002) Be rewāyat-e Saʿid Nafisi: ḵāterāt-e siāsi, adabi, javāni, TehranGoogle Scholar
  11. Towhidi-Manesh G (2002) Registration report: Azimian Historical House (in Persian). Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organisation (ICHTO)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Applied Arts ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Hakim Sabzevari UniversitySabzevarIran

Personalised recommendations