Houshang Seyhoun (1920 –2014)

Houshan Seyhoun
Houshang Seyhoun (1920 –2014)

 

Avicenna Mausoleum - Hamadan
Avicenna Mausoleum - Hamadan

Houshang Seyhoun, the internationally acclaimed architect, artist, educator, and a long-time friend and supporter of the Encyclopaedia Iranica was born on the 22 August 1920 in Tehran to a family noted for their artistic achievements, particularly in music. His grandfather, Mirza Abdollah, was an eminent musician who ran a music school in Tehran, and the master musicians Ahmad ‘Ebadi and ‘Ali Akbar Shahnazi were his uncles. The completion of his secondary education coincided with the establishment of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Tehran in 1941, which included the first professional school of architecture in the country. In his capacity as the first dean of the college André Godard , the French architect and art historian, modeled the curriculum on the French École des beaux-arts system of ateliers. Seyhoun studied under the French architect Maxime Siroux for three years. His graduation project was included in an exhibit organized by the Irano-Soviet Society of Cultural Relations in Tehran for which he was awarded the insignia for arts from the Ministry of Culture and Art. Recommended by Godard, he entered École nationale supérieure des Beaux-arts in Paris in 1946, and studied under Professor Otello Zavaront for three years, receiving his Doctorat d' Etat in 1949. On his return to Iran he taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Architecture and in 1961 replaced Mohsen Forughi as the Dean of the Faculty, a position he held for 7 years. Seyhoun vastly improved the curriculum and introduced new programs in urban planning, musicology and dramatic arts. Many students who attended his popular courses and workshops developed into distinguished artists and architects. Seyhoun’s half a century long period of teaching was celebrated in 2005 by a group of his students in Dubai.

Nadershah Monument
Nadershah Monument

After a one year travel ban following the Revolution of 1979, Seyhoun left Tehran for Paris at the invitation of the French government, where he was granted honorary citizenship and continued to paint and draw and hold several exhibitions. In 1982 he moved to Vancouver, Canada, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Ferdowsi Mausoleum - Tus
Ferdowsi Mausoleum - Tus

A prolific and innovative artist with diverse interests in architecture, painting, craftwork, and sculpture, Seyhoun designed and developed many memorable public spaces and monuments including the commemorative mausoleums of Avicenna in Hamadan, Nader Shah in Mashad, Ferdowsi in Tus, Omar Khayyam and Kamal-al-Molk in Nishapur, as well as the main complex of Central Bank of Iran and numerous others. Seyhoun is renowned for his integration of Persian traditional elements in his visibly modern architectural designs.

Omar Khayyam Mausoleum - Nishpur
Omar Khayyam Mausoleum - Nishpur

Painting remained always an integral part of Seyhoun's creative output. He experimented with calligraphy, pencil drawing, pen and ink drawing, as well abstract expressionism. He has used an architect’s eye while rendering pen and ink landscape drawings, and incorporating Persian poetry in his artworks. There have been many exhibits of Seyhoun’s paintings, both in Iran and abroad. He has shared galleries with many famous artists, including an exhibition in 1972 in Amherst, Massachusetts, alongside Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. Seyhoun’s works can be found in the permanent collections of Harvard University, MIT, Berkeley and Hors du Temps Museum in the south of France. Of special note is his solo exhibition at the Iran-America Society in 1972, which included his architectural designs and pencil sketches.

 

Kamal-al-Molk Mausoleum - Nishapur
Kamal-al-Molk Mausoleum - Nishapur

Houshang Seyhoun is the recipient of many national and international awards. In 2005 he was honored by the Encyclopaedia Iranica Gala in Toronto for his outstanding architectural designs and his lifelong achievements as an artist, an architect, and an educator.

Encyclopaedia Iranica Gala
Encyclopaedia Iranica Gala

On the occasion of his 90th birthday, his lifetime achievements were celebrated at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In 2012 he was the recipient of the Fifth Annual Bita Prize for Persian Arts, which was awarded to him by the Bita Daryabari Endowment in Persian Letters at Stanford University.

The Bita Award
The Bita Award

The 2013 Farhang Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Seyhoun in recognition of his lasting contributions to the modernization of Iranian traditional architecture and his mentorship of generations of aspiring Iranian architects and fine arts students.

Seyhoun died on 26 May 2014 in Vancouver, Canada, and was buried on 7 June in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles. Many of his friends, students and admirers participated in the ceremony. His loss received wide coverage around the world, and several memorials were held in various locations, including UCLA on 15 June.