By paying a special attention to biology, Iranian architects have created amazing wonders entitled Iranian pigeon towers or dovecotes, deserving a credit to be seen as one of the major artistic manifestations. These towers often remain neglected and unknown in spite of their agricultural benefits and wide distribution across Iran. The environs of Isfahan hosts close to 3,000 pigeon towers with unique vernacular architecture.
Having an antiquity of about 700 years, mostly dating back to the Safavid era (1501-1736), these remarkable edifices have been constructed generally with clay or adobe as well as brick, lime plaster and gypsum ranging from 15 to 25 meters in diameter and as tall as 20 meters or more topped with domes and vaults to allow pigeons access to honeycombed interiors which include abundant nesting balconies scattered uniformly along the walls.
The cylindrical dovecotes punctuated with numerous holes provide a safe environment for pigeons to nest and live in as a kind of impenetrable fortress to stop entering birds such as hawks, owls or crows. The towers were built on a special design to be well illuminated internally and to provide a steady temperature throughout the year, being cool during the summer and relatively warm in the winter.
With the capacity of accommodating up to 25,000 pigeons, these tall towers could annually produce huge amounts of dung as a significant source of natural fertilizers to enrich the fertile but nitrogen-deficient Isfahan farms, particularly legendary melon fields and soften leather in Isfahan’s famed tanneries.
Due to the increasing use of industrial fertilizers and tanning chemicals, there has been a sharp decline in the number of pigeon towers from thousands in the17th century as mentioned in the French traveler Chardin’s travelogue to nearly a hundred left in the entire province today.
Aside from being historically important, these monuments with their elegant facades and the harmony of internal spaces are considered as wonderful tourist attractions in the Isfahan suburbs, which are worthy of visiting.