Concept of Underground City
An underground city is a series of linked subterranean spaces that may provide a defensive refuge; a place for living, working or shopping; a transit system; mausolea; wine or storage cellars; cisterns or drainage channels; all or several of these.The term may also refer to a network of tunnels that connects buildings beneath street level that may house office blocks, shopping malls, metro stations, theatres, and other attractions. These passages can usually be accessed through the public space of any of the buildings connecting to them, and sometimes have separate entries as well. This latter definition encompasses many modern structures, whereas the former more generally covers tunnel systems from ancient times to the present day.
Underground cities such as Iran Underground Cities are especially functional in cities with very cold or hot climates, because they permit activities to be comfortably accessible year-round without regard to the weather. Underground cities are similar in nature to skyway systems and may include some buildings linked by skyways or above-ground corridors rather than underground.Some cities also have tunnels that have been abandoned.
This remarkable complex of tunnels, 8km north of Kashan, originally grew up around a freshwater spring, credited with supplying delicious, crystal-clear water. Only part of the tunnel system is open to visitors today, and those parts are often subject to flooding (note the two-colour tone of the walls showing the flood level), but even a quick descent to the first level gives an idea of the complexity of this ancient engineered project.
Ouyi (Noushabad), is considered a notable piece of ancient architecture among Iran Underground Cities; which being located in the central desert region of Iran, experiences harsh weather.
The original purpose of the tunnels and chambers that were dug around the original well may have been to provide a respite from the desert’s summer heat but they also appear to have had a further function in allowing inhabitants to move from one part of their town to another without having to encounter potential enemies. This, one of Iran Underground Cities, is a masterpiece of Sassanian architecture, constructed on three levels between 4m and 18m beneath ground level and included a number of ingenious devices to trap and ambush hostile intruders, such as curving corridors and disguised pits covered with stones. The tunnels, which were put to good use during the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, worked particularly well as an emergency shelter because there were several entrances to the underground chambers, some of which surfaced within the town’s houses. Ventilation shafts allowed for prolonged residence underground and fresh water was assured by the spring. The tunnels were eventually abandoned in the 1920s and found by accident when someone dug a well in their house and stumbled through to the labyrinth of some chambers.
At least since 1500 year ago, in Sassanian period, people at this part of Iran who had the fear of being invaded by some foreigners started to think how they could escape such unwanted death. Fleeing to the mountains and shifting from settled life to nomadic life has been an option. You know that settlement comes after migration lifestyle, but it has happened both ways in Iran due to the invasions imposed; one of which led to formation of Iran Underground Cities.
One of the entrances to Ouyi underground city at Noosh Abad leads to the entrance made into the tank of a water reservoir built in Safavid period (16th to 18th centuries). The material, which was used for the insulation of the tank (saruj) constructed then, has been so solid that it took construction workers one week using modern tools to make a whole into this half-meter-thick wall to make a way for the visitors to go inside this tank. To the left-hand side of this hole, there’s a passageway dug to go into the underground city of Noosh Abad, city’s entrence!
People of Noosh Abad, dug up 4 flours under their town connected to their houses by a well from inside their courtyards. Upon feeling the threat of some invaders coming to their area, they went into these wells to get to their hideouts.
At the bottom, these shafts lead to the connected network of corridors, chambers, more downward wells, etc. Though from the top, it looked like it’s another dry well in this desert town. Just thinking of Iran Underground Cities is awesome, by itself!
The Well’s Qualifications
The depth of the wells had been decided in a way that they didn’t reach the water tables or wet grounds, but they were deep enough to be accepted as an ordinary well. Such shafts led people to the floor -1. There are 3 other floors underneath such level meaning other wells had been dug as down as -4 floor to which people could go down and seek shelter.They had to think about having food to eat and water to drink. So, there must have been some reserves of foodstuff as well. Light and air are two other important factors essential to the people who stayed down there during the hiding.
While walking in the corridors of this one sample of Iran Underground City, one is reminded of the underground aqueduct system devised by ancient Iranians called Kariz or Qanat. Ancient Iranians already had the know-how required to make such underground network of corridors and arrange for some temporary residence at the times of invasion. This was not a foreign concept to them at all.
Corridors & Chambers
Once people arrived in the underground network of corridors and chambers, what is now called Iran Underground City, each had a space with their families. This is what one may conclude by looking at the structure or architecture of such dug-out corridors and recessed spaces.
From human point of view and considering the horrified life people could have lived here, one really feels sorry for the things happening to these people back in the tense history of this country. Just imagine they had to take their family into such holes and spend some time, short or long, into such chambers and ask them to keep quiet and pray for their lives!
A rare innovation
From innovation point of view, once the need to survive presses upon man, he will come up with solutions. As a hard-working nation with 1000s of years of background in engineering and architecture, Iranians have managed to survive putting into action such experiences form other projects and similar occasions and struct the Iran Underground Cities quite fabulously.From resistance point of view, Iranians have always shown how steadfast they are in defending themselves and creating life even in very unfriendly conditions. Oases settlements, as a good example, in the hearts of deserts are the best samples of bringing water and life, to the middle of literally nowhere. Noosh Abad ancient underground city, as just one of Iran Underground Cities, is the great example of such resistance and ambition to survive. There are more other similar networks found in other parts of Iran as well.