I am the daughter of Hossein Amanat, the architect of the Freedom Monument [Azadi Tower] in Tehran.
I was born in London, England in 1979 right at the beginning of the Iranian Revolution. As such, I have never been to Iran and grew up in Canada, but it has always been my wish to visit. I moved to Vancouver when I was three years old and lived here until I finished high school. Then, I moved to Montreal where I obtained a bachelors degree from McGill University. After that, I obtained my masters in art history, theory and criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I have worked in the art auction business, as well as museums, and currently work part-time at the Vancouver Art Gallery in family programs. I plan to stay here in Vancouver to raise my two sons.
As I sit here watching all the news about the protests and situation in Iran, I feel compelled to tell the story of my family. My father, Hossein Amanat, the architect of the Freedom Monument in Tehran, has been a Vancouver resident for the past 30 years.
As a young graduate, he won a nationwide competition for its design, and since that time, the Freedom Monument has become a symbol of modern Iran. It is also the venue for the protests and demonstrations that are currently taking place.
Thirty years ago, my parents fled Iran when the Shah was overthrown by the very regime that is being opposed by the Iranian people today. Since he was not Muslim and had designed this monument for the Shah, my father was blacklisted by the Islamic regime. As a child here in Vancouver, I remember my family glued to the television watching the protests and Ayatollah Khomeini. Now, all these years later, I see my son witnessing something eerily familiar.
Over the past few days, I’ve seen countless images of the Freedom Monument on the news. I thought it may interest CBC readers to know that the architect of such an important symbol lives right here in Vancouver.
My family feels very proud of the people standing up for freedom and justice in Iran and of those who are at the forefront of this movement, risking their lives for these ideals. It is our hope and prayer that there will be no more tragic losses and the Iranian people will peacefully achieve their goals.
The Freedom Monument, also known as the Shahyad or Azadi Monument, was designed in 1966 when my father was a 24 year-old graduate. It was completed in 1971. The structure has had little maintenance done to it over the past 30 years, but seems to have stood the test of time. More importantly, the symbolism of this monument refers to all the eras of Iranian history, including the pre-Islamic glories of the Persian Empire, which all Iranians, regardless of creed or religion, are proud of.
My father is thrilled that the Azadi Monument has found its place in the hearts of the people as a symbol of their national identity. He always believed in a glorious future for Iran and is humbled that this monument has witnessed major events in the past and continues to do so. It is moving for all of us to see the crowds rally around it during these momentous times.
After leaving Iran because of the persecution of the Baha’is, he continued his practice working on international projects, first in London, England and then in Vancouver. These projects include buildings in Israel, China, Samoa, and the United States. In Vancouver, he has recently completed two thirty storey condominium towers, and
other projects as well. He is not retired.
He would love to return to visit Iran one day, when the conditions allow. The beauty and wealth of Iranian architecture have always been a source of inspiration for not only my father, but for many architects such as Arthur Erickson. To go back to this source is his dream.