Bank Melli Iran Museum
A Short Account on the History of the Building
In the year 1912, by the order and expenses of Jafar Gholikhan Bakhtiari (Third Sardar Asa'd), one of the most beautiful residential houses was built in Bagh Ilkhani alley in the northwestern corner of Meydan Toopkhaneh, later on named as Alaodolleh street. Bagh Ilkhani Alley, with the stone pavement and tree rows in the margin was the residential place of many Qajar nobles and foreign tourists. After changes occurred during 1920 to 1941 to establish an urban development project on the basis of civil system, Alaodolleh street was renamed as " Ferdowsi " street,
The building has a beautiful and magnificent structure and manifests the architecture taste and arts belonging to the end of Qajar Dynasty . The building has been repaired by the State Cultural Heritage Organization in the recent years and is registered as a national building.
The National Saving Fund building as well as other buildings of Central Department of Bank Melli were among the constructional activities in Ferdowsi Street during 1928. The said building, being located inside the mentioned complex, was bought by Bank Melli to be used for many activities including, Farming Office of Bank Keshavarzi, Sports Club, Visitors` Reception Hall,library,… till September 11 th 1978, when Bank Melli Iran in the commemoration of its 50th anniversary decided to keep the place remain for ever naming it " The Museum of Bank Melli Iran " and exhibiting the valuable gifts and presents which were sent to it by all the banks across the world.
The style of the building is a mixture of local and regional Iranian elements and the neo-classic style of western countries with an inevitable influence of Iranian architecture masterly work and architectural taste and arts could be observed in it. This style ,called Tehrani Style,became popular in Iran, particularly in Tehran since Nasseri era as a consequence of an extensive communication with the western people.
The architect was Ostad Mohammad Memarbashi, known as Baba who had experiences of working with the architecture engineers graduated from western countries. A few magnificent buildings have remained of him from Mozfari and Ahmad Shahi (kingdom) era. He had been inspired by the postal cards, color pictures and European journals.
The building has two floors with a decorative shell of bricks with pictures on it and masonry-framed long beautiful brick decorated rectangular frames with windows in some of them and frames built in harmony with the windows in others.
The four semi-circle pillar walls in four corners of the building, decorated with first class bricks with Iranian traditional (Terme) floral marks looks as if are holding the building in their arms with utmost magnificence and power.The two columned verandas in the northern and southern limit in both floors give a beautiful and romantic landscape to the residents. This space is now limited to two small gardens in the northern and southern limits with a small decorative water escape in the southern garden.
The northern veranda with a small advancement has four pillars in two floors . Although the pillars of first floor have octagon stone stands with round columns with cylindrical body and colored plaster coat in plaster of Paris and a floral column capital in beautiful style, reflect the inspiration of the western column capital of Baroque style, one could easily observe its Iranian theme and color and dominance a powerful and fashioned fingers of an arts in combining the paintings and playing with plaster could be well seen.
In the upper floor, there are rectangular pillars with simple decoration in the body of the pillar and projected plaster decoration with the sample style, showing themselves in full coordination with the colorful paints on the face of veranda ceiling and roof coat. The southern veranda with advanced in the middle of the building is a western element and in addition to distinguishing the main entrance of the building , saves the visitors and residences from snow and rain upon arrival and on leaving till reaching the cars. This veranda is erected on a half space of a pentagram with six stone pillars. .The pillar bases are octagon ,round pillar with three projected collars, projected cylindrical body and flute plastered decoration. Here; too, the focus was mostly on decoration of column capital texturing.
The acanthus leave patterns with tight leaves and branches raising out of the stone both adds to the beauty and decoration and shows its symbolic value in the building. The veranda has flat roof and the distance of columns is decorated with a low arch and beautiful brick lying that in addition to the beauty, well tolerates the imposed loads. The rectangular columns in the corner of upper floor with their plaster coat and magnificent beauty employed in decorating the column capitals are evidences of the artist’s powerful strength in creating patterns and accumulating decorations. The brickwork of veranda landscape leaves a marvelous influence in the fore-arch with mat and beehive patterns and a beautiful framing by using patterned bricke and two crowns of bricke work with struck and projected volume.
The inner plaster coat of veranda has beautiful colored plaster both in ceiling and the entrance fascia. It seems that the lower floor with its two large rooms and a few small rooms, arranged in ultimate simplicity of form ,has been supposed for inner house since it has no decoration than a high boxed-ceiling with semi-projected plaster and crystal chandeliers with patterned bulbs. The interesting element is a small elevator which is fixed at the end of northwestern room to carry food and facilitate servicing to the second floor.
There are large and beautiful halls in upper floor to receive the visitors. The beautiful corridor of the house in the lower floor with its scalloped arc and boxed-ceiling made of (plaster) rectangular in deep, decorated with the plasterwork with winding and short curved branches and small projected flowers initiates beauty and decoration. A small chimney with columned plaster worked chimney pieced built in the eastern wall shows pattern tones of belt-style with narrow margins of projected bindweed and aster , hidden by a narrow cherry – flower chimneypiece. This hideous game is a secret which is well known by the traditional architect. There is a beautiful frame above the chimneypiece with narrow sagged and projected margin where a crown with themes of twisted bindweeds has decorated it. A beautiful bronze frame keeps the tall mirror. An influence of Russian architecture is seen in the corridor of the house which is divided into two sections in its mid-way by wide wooden stairs to give a two-side connection with the second floor. The steps are made of strong, beautiful and nice color woods where no trace of old age could be found in them. The stair reels are excavated woods in coordination with wooden skirting and chimney shows the Iranian's love of decoration and ornaments.
The inner structure of the building is brick and the walls are decorated with wood, plaster of Paris, plaster and mirror works and the large use of beautiful and nice-colored woods has given a particular warmness to whole building.
The stairs ceiling and the corridor of the upper floor is very beautiful and in full coordination with walls, being crated by the combination of styled cut mirrors and magnificent light reflection along with decorated plaster work patterns, all gathered in a skillful balance of the patterns accumulation and empty spaces. The vertical and horizontal bands with cut-mirrors with repeated patterns on the wall surface have established a strong connection tie with the ceiling decorations, making it impossible to separate them. A crystal chandeliers with transparent drops suspended in the air, completes the beauty of the stairways.
The middle hall takes the visitor’s look to a high and above ceiling with the large surfaces and tall walls, decorated with frames of thin plaster work in plant patterns with a magnificent and marvelous arcs and winds. The hall is an exhibition of jars, chandlers, tall mirrors, mantle piece and beautiful cherry color consoles.
The wood-coated skirting sets are decorated with Moaraq (wood works) and the wooden doors, decorated and ornamented with carving and wood works, with crowned fascia and decorative projected volumes of western decoration are the same. The walls are coated with plasterwork, balanced patterns, floating like a wavy and joyful tone, decorated with plasterwork. The eastern hall which is adjacent to the middle hall by a mid-wall invites the visitor to tranquility and meditation. Of all those magnificent decorations of the middle hall, only a small protion has been allocated to this hall in form of a tall ceiling in a full oval shape. The decorations, plaster patterns and cut mirrors are evidences of undeniable effects of western art, completed with a semi-transparent opaline chandeliers with gold works, cut crystal bulbs with lion and sum pattern.
The eastern wing, the kitchen and hygienic services are the ending part of the architecture. The second floor in western wing in completed by small rooms for sleep and rest. There is a window with color glasses with knot art in the opposite corridor which opens to the northern veranda and in recent years repair, it has substituted the main window and a parts of it, is observable.
The roof is a metal slop roof with brick chimney furnaces, standing in full coordination with the whole complex, façade and complete beauty of the place, by its horizontal seam-arrangements and geometrical straight lines and cone cap, inspiring the familiar fragment of Iranian architecture. It leaves an unforgettable memory of a rich culture and high genius of the Iranian artist who always had words to say in his effort to deny the western style.
And now , this complex is the art place of artists from all over the world .
Since these objects are presents of different Iranian and foreign banks for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Bank Melli Iran , it has not been possible to observe the historical sequence and arts history or even , regular sectioning which could be considered in the museum arrangement and the effort has been mostly in the direction to exhibit beautiful and joyful gifts in a particular art spectrum. In this complex, there are styles and patterns of Iranian painters with tones of girls who are in the feasts and the Qajar princes , painted with oil color along with flower, bird and water where in addition to almost a close coincidence with the building, contributes the complex to take the visitor to the implication of a challenge of tradition and love of modernism in other arts as well .