Paper Information

Journal:   JOURNAL OF RESEARCHES IN ISLAMIC ARCHITECTURE   SUMMER 2014 , Volume 1 , Number 3; Page(s) 93 To 108.
 
Paper: 

THE GUEST AT HOME: A COMPARATIVE STUDY BETWEEN IRAN AND THE WEST AT THE THRESHOLD OF MODERN AGE (CASE STUDY: QAJAR HOUSES IN TABRIZ)

 
 
Author(s):  NARI GHOMI MASOUD, ABBASZADEH MOHAMMAD JAVAD
 
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Abstract: 

Many scholars believe that social modernity in Iran has been started far earlier than Reza Shah Pahlavi’s era and its up-down modernization projects. It is also argued that there has been an innate social process of modernity with a gradual development since Qajar period. So it can be questioned that which one of the two cultural models of Modernity and Tradition has been dominating Qajar artifacts and if there were any clear footsteps of cultural patterns of modernity in everyday life spaces of ordinary people of that time. Here, this question is inquired from the guest’s viewpoint of home spatiality. Beginning from this question then domestic examples from first period of introducing modernity to Iran (since Qajar to starting years of Pahlavi Dynasty), with an emphasize on the cases of city of Tabriz are studied concentrating on the effects of Tradition and Modernity culture on spatial patterns of hospitality within these houses.
The hypothesis of productive effect of “self-other” dialectic on domestic spaces of modern era is put into critical debate. Three basic patterns of domestic spaces (minimal house, maximal house and collective house) are analyzed from spatial-cultural relations viewpoint. Each of these three patterns has its special theoretical debate in western discourse of early modernity. For each pattern, two examples of Tabriz Qajar houses are selected for analyzing guest space: Amir-Nezam house and Behnam House are considered as maximalist type, Alavi House and Sehhati house as minimal examples and Rastgar house as semicommunity house. So the research method is historical-interpretive based on historical texts, assessments and pictures as well as buildings.
The maximal pattern is bourgeois’ that is manifested in Victorian examples. In this pattern all spaces are arranged upon a theatrical scene in which actors are homeowners and audiences are guests. This theatrical model as Goffman argued has been extended to contemporary western house. Introduction of large variety of rooms for various presences of guests can be interpreted as a byproduct of this culture. In comparison, in its Iranian counterpart there is no considerable social distance between the host and the guest in spatial order of a conventional party. Such a view has resulted in unifying of guest receiving space and living space which is placed at the central axis of house. This axial position is a socio-cultural characteristic of guest’s spatiality which is not restricted to maximalist ones. Any separation among people during guest presence would be upon vast family divisions which has no relation to guests. As our study shows, heavy interior decoration of bourgeois’ internal design is eliminated in many houses of rich men of Qajar. Two minimalist patterns of early modernity are arguable: dirty houses of Industrial revolution and what has been called “the minimum dwelling” by modernists. The latter is a product of modernists’ social project which was basedon reducing home-living in the favor of social presence. It was an essential step to deny private sphere. The guest’s spatiality here was seen as being with others in out-of-home places. So restaurant and saloons occupied the place of parlors. Searching for Iranian transformation like that model contains a reverse result. This study shows that in Qajar small houses of Tabriz, there were no conceptual difference in comparison with maximalist houses while historical documents show no sign of development of out-of-home places for guests. The third pattern is the community houses that were seen as utopias of the project of modernity. From the view point of guests’ spatiality, this pattern is movement towards denying any distance between self and other so the stranger becomes host as well as guest. In utopist text of William Morris (News from Nowhere) such a position is articulated. It has been argued by many writers of western culture that it has been common pattern of medieval society that has been destroyed by bourgeois’ culture. If the utopia were to be realized then strangers should be accepted in common spaces without any exception and if the socialist utopia was going on, then maximizing the use of common facilities would be seen as an instrument of saving the community. Private guests, in that sense, should make use of common facilities instead of host’s ones (the example of socialist Russia housing projects). Khanghah of Daravish in the Islamic word pursues such a pattern with the exception of absence of family i.e. these places where completely masculine spaces. So these could not be extended to dwelling patterns of traditional Iran. In Tabriz of Qajar era, there were no similar examples to multifamily apartments of early 20th century socialists’ utopias as well as utopian community ones. The only close examples to utopian patterns of modern guests’ spatiality in Tabriz are rare hotels of late Qajar and a house (Rastgar) with a linear and multi-unit plan that cannot be considered as a Qajar house.
It could be said that social analysis of guests’ spatiality of modernity is heavily based on resolving the dialectic of otherness in western society of 19 century. This study shows that real patterns of modernity for guest’s spatiality at home differs greatly from its counterparts of Qajar Iran and therefore, Qajar houses could be interpreted far more persuasively with their traditional patterns than modern ones. So now it is possible to put some query on the hypothesis which stresses on the fact that if there was not obligatory modernization project of Rezashah, then there would have been an innate Iranian Modernity. Full openness toward strangers which were embedded at the center of utopian views of modern intellectuals and at the focal point of modern utopias, had no essential meaning in domestic culture of Qajar era in Iran because acceptance of guest as a member of family was so deep in cultural-spatial patterns of those people that modern utopian perspective of fading “otherness” in spatial arrangement of home hospitality brought no new message to people of that era. So it is conceivable that the theory of innate cultural permutation of Islamic and traditional lifestyle of Iranians without Rezashah’s projects cannot be easily confirmed for social history of Iran.

 
Keyword(s): GUEST SPATIALITY, HOUSING OF QAJAR ERA, MODERN THRESHOLD, IRANIAN TRADITION
 
References: 
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