The below letter was translated into Farsi (Persian) and posted on 31 May 2004. Knowing that there are postal delays between the UK and Iran, we waited for a reply until 04.02.210. No reply having been received, we are now publishing the letter on the Gardenvisit website in case it is of interest to anyone concerned with the management of an important and wonderful historic garden. See blog post on Bagh-e Fin restoration.
31 May 2004
Mohsen Ahmadi Kafshani
Dear Mr Kafshani
It was a pleasure to visit the garden on 15.5.2004 and to meet you.
I have visited many famous gardens in Europe and West Asia and believe that the historical importance of Bagh-e Fin places it in a similar category to such gardens as the Villa d’Este (Italy), Vaux le Vicomte (France), Sans Souci (Germany) and Rousham (England). I hope however you will forgive me for commenting that Bagh-e Fin and its surroundings would benefit from a major restoration programme. Were this done, I believe the garden might be listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. At present, as the popular Lonely Planet guide to Iran comments ‘some travelers have found it a disappointment after the gardens of Mahan and Shiraz’. Bagh-e Fin is, in my view, a far more significant design than the gardens of Mahan or Shiraz. My suggestions for Bagh-e Fin, based on little knowledge of this garden but much experience of researching other gardens, are below.
1. There is a need for expert advice and for historical research, by an Iranian expert in landscape architecture and garden design. It may be that one of our Iranian students could help in this regard.
2. An accurate survey is necessary and it would be desirable to include a pollen analysis to try and discover what plants have previously been grown in the garden.
3. For the garden itself, I think the first objective should be to restore those characteristics of a Paradise Garden which are shown in so many Persian miniature paintings: flowers, fruit and animals (eg peacocks). It is very likely that the lack of flowers prompted the Lonely Planet comment.
4. The old trees within the garden require a management programme.
5. The structural elements of the garden should be cleared of electrical and telephone posts, masts and cables.
6. The garden surroundings should be treated with the greatest sensitivity. In my view vehicular traffic should be first restricted and later banned. The mud brick houses in the old village of Fin should be acquired and restored to make a ‘heritage village’ with, for example, facilities for the 70,000 visitors you had on 14.5.2004. It should also remain possible to see the cypress trees of the garden in the context of the desert and mountains to the west. This could be done by raising low earth mounds to absorb the new freeway.
7. For visitors from outside Kashan, the main visitor parking should be west of the freeway. This could be provided in association with the new stadium and park which are being built. You could then have a greenway, or rather a blueway, leading from the new parking area to the garden. This would include a roofed bridge and a water channel crossing the road.
8. For visitors from within Kashan, the longer-term aim should be to build a new road to the north of the existing approach road. The existing road, perhaps down to the Iranshahr Hotel, should then become a pedestrian street lined, as at present, with café gardens. There may also be an opportunity to create two modern caravanserais in the backland area.
I have done a quick freehand sketch of the above suggestions, which is enclosed. Please forgive me if my opinions are unwelcome or inappropriate. I have put in a page on the http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/bagh-e_fin website with details of the garden.
The suggestions are offered in the context of our MA programmes in garden history and garden design. It might be of interest for one of your staff to undertake the associated Postgraduate Certificate in Garden History which is available for study by distance learning.
With best wishes to you and the garden
Principal Lecturer in Garden History
University of Greenwich
[Click plan to enlarge] Proposed restoration of the Bagh-e Fin and its surroundings landscape
Donald Newton Wilbur's Plan of Bagh-e Fin
Bagh-e Fin Historic Garden seen from the desert - but cut off from its landscape by a major road
The mud brick housing surrounding the Bagh-e Fin is in need of conservation
Bagh-e Fin Historic garden with TV aerial
The planting at Bagh-e Fin is likely to have been a lush 'flowering orchard', not straggly weeds
The relationship between the surrounding walls of the Bagh-e Fin and the surrounding mud brick housing should be conserved
The majestic setting of the Bagh-e Fin should be visible from a viewpoint on the garden walls and also from the surrounding mud brick village