Azadi Monument: Architect's daughter shares her story


hossein-amanat-azadiI 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.

180px-Hossein_amanatThirty 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.



16 Responses

  1. Ali

    June 26, 2009 1:18 am

    Wow! I had no idea Azadi Monument was designed by Baha’is. I knew there was Baha’i numerical symbols laid all over it but never realized it until I read this report. I just wonder if the esteemed spokesperson for the foreign ministry of Iran who announced BBC and CNN are run by Baha’is would elaborate on how Ayas can justify telling millions of Tehranis over the years to gather around this Baha’i Temple in Tehran while they tell people not to gather around BBC and CNN because Ayas say they are Baha’is. Hopefuly this Baha’i Temple of Iran will not be destroyed by the Ayas who destroyed all other Baha’i building in Iran. But then again one never knows what these Ayas may do now that the symbol of Freedom in Iran is Baha’is with Baha’i symbols ALL over it. I’m going to lay down flowers there tomorrow. God Bless you all. Everyone in Iran loves you. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! Internet in Iran is slow but our filtershekans are faster.

  2. LizKauai

    June 26, 2009 2:09 am

    Greetings to you and your wonderful parents. It has been a long time since I saw them last – but I think of your family and keep you in my prayers!
    Mahalo and aloha!

  3. E.S.

    June 26, 2009 4:17 am

    Wowww amazing story! I always thought the Freedom Monument was an interesting looking structure,..very modern yet reflects Middle Eastern design.

    I would’nt doubt that Baha’is have built many buildings that we don’t know about in Iran. I also wish with all my heart to visit Iran one day too.

  4. Omid T.

    June 26, 2009 6:08 am

    Your father’s name will be revered, and etched in the annals of history as one of the great Persian architects.

  5. Anahid

    June 26, 2009 11:52 am

    Dear Ali,

    “Hopefuly this Baha’i Temple of Iran will not be destroyed”
    Azadi Monument is not a Baha’i Temple.This monument belongs to all Iranians (kurds, Baha’i, Muslims, Christians,Zoroastrian,…).


  6. sb

    June 26, 2009 12:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story, thank you Mr. Amanat, for the wonderful architecture you have given us. It is long past time that the world knew that the Iranian-born designer of this monument is not allowed his civil rights or granted protection under the Iranian constitution because of his religious beliefs. How paradoxical that it is located in Azadi (“Freedom”) Square. The Azadi Monument expresses the hope of freedom, mankind’s universal aspiration and an Iranian aspiration. Such hope has never been limited to any one group of people or any one belief.

  7. Glenn Franco Simmons

    June 26, 2009 1:49 pm

    Iranian is correct.

    The Freedom Tower is for all Iranians.

    In that spirit, may we all pray for all Iranians, without regard for any pre-condition, be it oppressor or oppressed, jailer or jailed, Muslim or Bahai or Jew or Zoroastrian or Christian.

    May God the All-Powerful send His mercies upon all who suffer. May He forgive those who cause the suffering.

    As Ali once asked me to pray for the jailers, we should keep that in mind and pray for all Iranians.

  8. Lily

    June 26, 2009 4:47 pm

    Dear Ali, Please dont call this master piece art made by Dear Mr. Amanat an Baha’i Temple. Temple is a place to go and pray and meditate! This beautiful, meaning full art work was not built for that purose. It belongs to all us to enjoy and be proud of it.

  9. Ali

    June 26, 2009 5:41 pm

    Whatever plans these Ayas devise to destroy your Faith’s foot prints in Iran fails. After 160 years of killing tens of thousands of Baha’is, destroying your holy sites, firing tens of thousands of Baha’is from their jobs, denying pensions, hospital benefits, food, livelihood, arrests and intimidations on Baha’is, one would assume these 21st century Ayas would at the very least, wash their hands off the crimes of their predecessors and acknowledge the truth that the message of Baha’u’llah for equality and unity of mankind is a far better message in tune with the needs of today’s modern society than all the Ayas’ theories and solutions combined (including their latest: the baton)!

  10. sb

    June 26, 2009 6:45 pm

    Years ago I heard that after 1979, some persons in the Iranian government called for the destruction of the Azadi Monument because of its perceived association to the Baha’i community. The monument was actually commissioned by the Shah as a gift to the nation and completed in 1971. Mr. Amanat was the gifted winner of a competiton for its design.

    I was also told that the Iranian public became so fond of the Azadi Monument that the post 1979 government decided it would be unwise to risk destroying it. Ali is correct, if one examines its features there is definitely some Baha’i-inspired symbology within it as well as other influences from Iran’s past.

    (Ali-Jaan: We are patient; we will rebuild whatever was lost.)

  11. I'm Nonpartisan

    June 26, 2009 11:06 pm

    As much as I would like to see close-up photos of this monument, I sincerely doubt that there are any Baha’i symbols on it. And, there are no Baha’i numerological symbols. A word to the wise, anything an “aya” has told you about the Baha’is or their beliefs is not true.

  12. Anonymous

    June 26, 2009 11:40 pm

    To “I’m Nonpartisan”:

    “[Hossein] Amanat integrated a degree of Baha’i symbology in the design [of the Azadi tower], such as having exactly nine stripes on each side, and exactly nine windows on either of the long sides of the structure.”

    (From Wikipedia)

    Note that I am myself a Baha’i. Just pointing this out for fellow readers.

  13. Ali

    June 27, 2009 12:12 am

    Around this Tower millions of people from all the tribes and religions of Iran have gathered over the past four decades and chanted God IS Great! Such is the power of this Temple. I know you Baha’is are tarofing. But tell me of any other place in all of the Persia Empire dating back from Cyrus The Great and from the coast of Mediteranean to the mountains of Hendokosh that has gathered around it such a diverse populace all chanting God IS Great. None can be found. Even if Ayas destroy this beautiful edifice, it will be rebuild back up to it’s majestic grandeur as will be all your Holy places and cemetaries. Your Prophet Baha’u’llah has prophesized grandure for Persia. He knows. He was heir to the throan of Sassanids as the direct descendant of Yazdgird the III, the last king of the Sassanid Empire.
    Much glory awaits Iran. You all kept me awake tonight.

  14. Badi'u'llah Galinkin

    June 27, 2009 11:02 am

    I didn’t know that the monument now so symbolic to Tehran was designed by a Baha’i. What is even more interesting is that is now so symbolic of the movement for change in Iran and as the world watched the crisis unfold will forever in their minds see this Iconic Image. I am a Baha’i and someday as one of my friends in Iran put it I will be able to come and visit and I shall see this monument. Someday Baha’i’s in Iran will be free. I know this, for I have faith.

  15. sb

    June 29, 2009 11:42 am

    Having been able to seeing a community based Baha’i Center designed by this amazing architect, I can testify to the deeply intrinsic nature of Mr. Amanat’s expression of Baha’i inspiration and symbol in his art. Nine is the number of Bahá (i.e., abjad or numerical value); nine is the number of culmination. I agree with Ali, it is likely no mere coincidence that the Azadi Monument became a symbol of Iranian freedom. The monument’s ability to attract and gather diverse people together in praise of the All Highest is a clear demonstration of the power Art has to inspire and influence the human spirit.


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