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Architecture as Symbolic Reverence for Nature.

Eco-Architecture 2014, 24 – 26 September, Siena, Italy

Architecture as Symbolic Reverence for Nature.

Comparative Case Study: Seed Cathedral, 21st Century - Pigeons’ Monastery 16th Century


Ostensibly unprecedented pieces of architecture, the Seed Cathedral in the Shanghai World Expo and Isfahan’s Pigeon House in Iran are two instances where celebrating nature has been formally manifested. In addition to their immediate functions - the former is an exhibition space and the latter a facility which collects birds’ droppings as natural fertilizer to sustain agriculture - they have remarkable transcendental intentions: by formal glorification of the natural, both projects connote the perpetual and timeless interdependencies between the human and nature.

While UK’s pavilion celebrates the existence of all seeds as emblems of genesis, the pigeon house manifolds the act of celebration into much more profound dimensions. Beyond its significance as an environmental and ecological instrument of sustainability, the cultural values which regard the pigeon as the symbol of freedom, innocence, and purity have been conducive to the evolution of a symbolic form: an exceptionally exquisite space which conjures the image of a cathedral and its monumental grace supersedes its performative necessities.

By comparing these two buildings - one designed in the 21st century (most modern), and the other a vernacular type evolved over time from 10th toward the 16th century (most archaic) - the paper will demonstrate how the same desire has been resurrected into distinct architectural types across time and place.

The tectonic logic, rooted in the agglomeration of an irreducible unit - the dimension of which is based on the bodily proportions of the organism it accommodates - allows these two artifacts to relate in an intricate way. By focusing on the ecological and sustainable features of the pigeon house, the paper will reiterate architecture’s capacity to operate simultaneously in two extreme domains (overlaying the maximum efficiency and the aesthetic perfection). Through revealing their underpinning formations, the paper will explain how despite their ostensible contrasts, the two buildings are essentially similar.

Isfahan’s P.H. U.K. Pavilion P.H. Interior Pavilion’s Interior