Iranian architecture displays a class and elegance that cannot be matched with any other style of architecture and design. It is quite distinct from that of Muslim countries. The major features of Iranian architecture are: structural ingenuity basically in vault and dome construction; a skill of decoration with freedom and intricacy incomparable to any other form of architecture.
The pre-Islamic buildings include the remarkable Elamite ziggurat at Chogha Zanbil. Baked brick was used for outer surfaces by the 12th century BC. Most of the greatest buildings were built with a religious purpose, and even in secular buildings religious influences are entirely absent. Palaces were present, and their shapes, sizes and colors varied according to the ruling dynasty.
The first great development of ancient Persian architecture took place under the Achaemenid dynasty during the Persian Empire, from about 550 to 330 BC. There are numerous remains of Achaemenian period, including two palaces, a sacred precinct, a citadel, a tower, and the tomb of Cyrus.
Royal architecture under the Achaemenid also included tombs cut in solid rock, of which the best-known examples are those at Naqshah Rostam near Persepolis. Little is known of the popular building practices of the period, but archaeologists believe that the ordinary dwelling was made of mud brick. After the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great, Greek influence, in its late, Hellenistic phase, was predominant in the arts of Persia. Examples include fragments of bronze sculpture found at Shami, and the Parthian sculptural reliefs at Behistun.
During the Islamic period “mosques” became the major buildings in Iranian architecture. Outstanding examples of early Islamic Iranian architecture include the Mosque of Baghdad built in 764, the Great Mosque at Samarra erected in 847, and the early 10th-century mosque at Nayin.
After the 17th century, Iranian artists copied European paintings and engravings, and the native traditions declined. But Iranian architecture still managed to leave a huge impact on the world.