Yazd – Adaptation lessons from a desert city

25_Conclusion_Yazd_Iran©Oana BaloiArticolul este tradus in limba Romana mai jos.

Yazd is my first desert city experience. I have contacted Mr. Hossein Amjad, an Iranian landscape architect, also member of the International Federation of Landscape Architects. In an introductory email I requested a meeting, specifying my interest in urban challenges such as drought, water supply and self-sustainability. Mr. Hossein has kindly offered an”educated tour” of Yazd together with his friend Mr . Mohammad Rahmani Moghadam, agronomical engineer. They have kindly guided me through the city, helping me understand how the city has been developed and how it develops today.


Maquette in the Museum of Water

Yazd is probably the only desert city were you will find a Museum of Water. The museum of water presents the techniques Yazd had developed, implemented and maintained hundreds of years to provide itself with sufficient water. The water was moderately used for domestic consumption, communal gardening and also the beautiful Persian gardens. The underground galleries – “quanat”,  were dug from 3 to 10 meters underground and their well functioning was based on gravity and wind. The Qanat system has been developed about 1000 BC, that’s the decade when Latins came to Italy from the Danube Region, and later the Roman Empire was rising, Ancient Egypt was declining, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhist and Zoroastrianism religions were being created. Persian architecture is fabulous, and the Zoroastian architecture particularly important as it has been the driver of physical and social development if the city, and also spiritual.





Yazd is considered to be the centre of Zoroastian culture. The Tower of Silence was a tomb-tower outside the city, but as the city kept on expanding, the building was not perceived as sacred monument anymore. The system became soon outdated after some thousands of years when the Iranian Zoroastrians preferred burial or cremation instead.

Tower Of Silence, Yazd, Iran

Wind catchers – cooling system in traditional Iranian architecture. The buildings in desert cities are different than buildings in different other geographical regions. They are provided with wind traps in their roofs to catch cooler breeze and direct it to the ground floor. The day/ night temperatures vary considerably from too cool to extreme high. The thick ceramic walls are high with ceilings that maximize the shade on the ground, and small windows are not placed on the south. The main function of the wind catchers are cooling ventilation within the building, but when the quanat crosses the underground, the ventilation will keep the water on a low temperature.


Yakhchāl – The ice house. Yazd is a city of old sophisticated carbon-neutral architecture. The ice house was supplied with ice brought from the mountains. When it was connected to a quanat system, in the winter time, the quanat water would be directed to supply the Yakhchāl with water. The water was freezing and stored in place up to 6 months a year. Some ice houses were big enough to store up to 5,000 m3 of ice. The walls of the Yakhchāl, called sārooj, are 2 meters thick and made of a water impenetrable mixture made of sand, clay, egg whites, lime, goat hair, and ash in specific proportions, and which was resistant to heat transfer.


The agriculture and urban agriculture. What was most impressive to me was that the water supply system was designed not only to supply water for domestic consumption but also for the local food production and irrigation of the beautiful Persian gardens inside the city. The water was not abundant, but was used wisely at the minimum required for the self sustainability of the villages the quanat system was serving.


Maize is used to control the soil and air humidity on ground.

I have also met a beautiful Persian woman, Samaneh, meteorogist at Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorological Research Center, managing a project called “Cloud seeding”, a Russian technology for artificial irrigation. The method, explained in the image below, is recently used for the agricultural production, and it contributes to the local production of food as well as export harvest.


Yazd is currently in a continuous expansion and the challenges of hosting more and more inhabitants increase the consumption of water, the food supply and climate change induced challenges. One example of issues that affect the city is drought and wind storms. The southern part of the county relies on the waters of Tigris and Euphrates rivers. According to the Middle East Monitor, in 2014 the Turkish government decided to stop the flow of the Euphrates river into Syria, affecting Iraq and indirectly Iran.  With no water available, the communities depending on the river have suffered a lot. The weakened natural wind barriers or lack of wind blockages such as vegetation cover, led to heavy sand storms and continuous movement of hot air masses towards the Persian Gulf, and other sand storms deep into Iraq territory and further to Iran.


Yazd city has yet to solve the prospected issue of water supply and prepare itself for dealing with drought and irregular wind storms. Yazd is a great example of urban development adapted in all aspects over a long period of time, when the resources are properly managed and the city properly planned.

The water consumption continued to rise as more water consuming services and industries were developed in Yazd. In same time, the water availability was decreasing, from reasons related to climate change or human induced environmental threats and weaknesses. Today the quanat system is not functioning and the city buys its water from the neighbors. With plentiful supplies and innovations such as cloud seeding, is possible to ease the local issues, but maybe this is also what the Turkish government thought when they stopped the Euphrates in 2014. Not yet sure if the way to auto sustainability is reliance to technology, but is a step to tackle climate change and produce locally grown food, which is a highly prioritized issue.

Lessons learn: plan for moderation in consumption and avoidance of wastage, in particular when exploiting local natural resources. And permanent mindfulness (to include nature and people, not only systems, in particular when planning settlements).

I want to share with you a link to an inspiring story, of the water on Earth.

Feeling inspired,


limba Romana

Yazd – lectii de adaptare de la un oras in desert

Yezd este primul oras in desert pe care l-am vizitat. L-am contactat pe Dl. Hossein Amjad, un architect peisagist, si el membru al Federatiei Internationale a Arhiectilor Peisagisti (IFLA). Intr-un email i-am cerut o sedinta in care sa imi prezinte orasul si problemele cu care se confrunta printre care seceta, aprovizionarea cu apa si auto-sustenabilitatea. Dl Hossein a propus un tur educat al orasului, impreuna cu prietenul sau Dl. Mohammad Rahmani Moghadam, inginer agronomic. Impreuna am parcurs orasul, ambii ajutandu-ma sa inteleg cum orasul a fost dezvoltat si cum se dezvolta in momentul de fata.


Macheta in Muzeul Apei

Yazd este probabil singurul oras in desert care are un Muzeu al Apei. Muzeul apei prezinta technicile care au fost dezvoltate in regiunea Yazd, implementate si mentinute sute de ani pentru a aproviziona orasul cu suficienta apa. Apa a fost folosita in cantitati moderate pentru consum domestic, gradini comunitare si mentinerea frumoaselor gradini Persane. Galeriile de sub pamant, numite “quanat”, au fost sapate de la 3 pana la 10 metrii adancime, iar functionarea lor se bazeaza pe vant si forta gravitationala. Sistemul de quanate a fost dezvoltat in untimul mileniu BC, cam in aceiasi perioada cand Lantinii au migrat spre Italia din zona Dunarii, radicand Imperiul Roman, aceiasi perioada cand Egiptul antic se prabusea, cand Iudaismul, Hunduismul, Budhismul si Zoroastianismul au fost create. Arhitectura persana este uimitoare, in particular arhitectura zoroastriana care a avut o mare influenta in dezvoltarea fizica, sociala si spiritual a comunitatiilor care locuiesc in zona.


Yazd este considerat centrul culturii Zoroastriene. Turnul Tacerii a fost un turn-mormant in afara orasului, insa cum orasul a continuat sa se extinda, cladirea nu a mai fost considerate ca fiind monument sacru. Sistemul a continuat cateva sute de ani pana cand Zoroastienii din Iran au preferat inmormantarea sau incinerarea.

Tower Of Silence, Yazd, Iran

Turnurile de ventilatie sunt un sistem de aerisire in arhitectura iraniana traditionala. Cladirile din desert sunt diferite de cladirile din alte zone geografice. Turnurile de ventilatie contin ferestre pentru a captura aerul rece si a-l directiona catre interiorul cladirii. Diferenta de temperatura dintre zi si noapte este mare, de la temperaturi foarte ridicate ziua, la temperaturi foarte scazute noaptea. Peretii grosi din ceramica sunt foarte inalti, acoperisul asigura o umbra considerabila pe pamant, iar ferestrele sunt mici si nu amplasate pe partea de sud a cladirii. Principala functiune a turnurilor de ventilatie este aerisirea spatiului interior, insa cand clardirea este contsruita deasupra quanatului, ventilatia asigura o temperature scazuta a apei din quanat.


Yakhchāl – Casa de gheata. Yazd este casa unei arhitecturi verzi impresionante, cu cladiri construite cu materiale locale si adaptate la conditiile de seceta. Casa de gheata este o constructie in care gheata adusa din munti era depozitata; sau daca aceasta contructie se afla desupra unui quanat, in timpul iernii cand temperaturile sunt scazute, apa din quanat era directionata catre interior sa inghete, si putea fi depozitata pana la 6 luni pe an.  Unele case de gheata puteau contine pana la 5000 metrii cubi de gheata. Peretii cladirii, numiti sārooj, au o grosime de 2 metrii si sunt facuti dintr-un strat impenetrabil de nisip, lut, albus de ou, lime, par de capra si cantitati controlate de cenusa, fiind astfel rezistent la transfer de caldura.


Agricultura si agricultura urbana. Ceea ce m-a impresionat cel mai tare a fost faptul ca sistemul de aprovizionare cu apa a fost contruit nu numai pentru aprovizionare cu apa pentru consum domestic si irigatiile gradinilor de legume, dar si irigarea frumoaselor gradini Persane in interiorul orasului. Apa nu era in abundenta, insa a fost folosita  pentru minimul necesar pentru autonomia satelor deservite de sistemul de quanate.


Porumbul este folosit pentru controlul umiditatii in sol si deasupra solului.

Am intalnit si o frumoasa femeie Persana, Samaneh, meteorologist la Centrul de Cercetare Meteorologica si Stiinte Atmosferice, coordonand un proiect numit “cloud seeding” – insamantarea norilor, bazat pe o technologie ruseasca pentru irigatie artificiala. Metoda, explicata in figurile de mai jos (scuze, in engleza), este folosita pentru productia agronomica locala de alimente dar si productie pentru export.


Yazd este in present in continua expansiune iar provocarile de a adaposti un numar din ce in ce mai mare de oameni vin cu provocari legate de consumul de apa, aprovizionarea cu alimente, si provocari induse de schimbarile climatice. Sudul Iranului depinde de influenta raurilor Tigru si Eufrat. In 2014, guvernul Turciei a oprit cursul Eufratului pentru a umple un baraj, afectand teritorii intregi in Siria, Iraq si Iran. Fara apa disponibila, comunitatile dependente de acest rau au avut mult de suferit. Fara nici un fel de bariera, construita sau naturala, vanturile si furtunile de nisip s-au intensificat afectand cele trei tari, inclusive teriroriul de sud al Iranului.


Yazd trebuie sa mai lucreze in a-si revolva problemele de aprovizionare cu apa si sa se pregateasca pentru a infrunta seceta si furtuni de nisip neasteptate. Yazd este un exemplu foarte bun de dezvoltare urbana adaptata la seceta pentru o perioada foarte indelungata, cand resursele locala sunt folosite cu intelepciune si orasul planificat corespunzator. Insa provocarile continua.

Consumul de apa a continuiat sa creasca cu numarul serviciilor consumatoare de apa si industiilor care s-au dezvoltat in Yazd. In acelasi timp, volumul de apa disponibila a scazut, din diferite motive de la schimbari climatice, la probleme de mediu cauzate de activitatea omeneasca. Astazi sistemul de quanate nu mai functineaza iar oasul cumpara apa din regiunile invecinate. Cu destule inovatii precum insamantarea norilor, este posibil ca provocarile sa fie usurate, insa poate si gurvenul Turciei gandea la fel cand a oprit cursul Eufratului.

Lectii invatate: planifica pentru un consum moderat si evitarea risipei, mai ales cand planificare urbana tinteste exploatarea resurselor locale naturale. De asemenea, permanenta consideratie catre oameni si natura, nu numai sisteme, mai ales in planificarea asezarilor omenesti.

De urmarit, un documentar foarte bun despre problema globala a apei.



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