FORŪGĪ, MOḤSEN (Mohsen Foroughi), pioneer of modern architecture in Persia, an influential professor of architecture at the University of Tehran, and a noted collector of Persian art (b. 14 May 1907; d. 6 October 1983; Figure 1).
Moḥsen Forūḡī was the son of the famous statesman and man of letters Moḥammad-ʿAlī Forūḡī (q.v.). He was sent to study abroad in 1926 and after a short stay at Toulouse, he moved to Paris where he attended the prestigious Lycée Jeanson-de-Sailly and was successful at the stringent entrance examinations, the concours, for both the École centrale and the École des beaux-arts. He chose the latter, specializing in architecture. He graduated in 1937, coming first in his class and winning the prize for the best diploma (Gillet, p. 14). He returned to Persia in the same year and taught at the various Faculties of the University of Tehran (q.v.), including the Faculty of Engineering as well as at the School of Architecture (Madrasa-ye ʿālī-e meʿmārī). He was instrumental, along with André Godard (q.v.), Roland Dubrul, and Maxime Siroux, in establishing the University of Tehran’s Faculty of Fine Arts in 1940 and was one of its initial professors, eventually succeeding Godard as its dean (Architecte 1, 1325 Š./1946, p. 31; Architecte 3, 1326 Š./1947, p. 111; see also FACULTIES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TEHRAN ii).
Forūḡī was the architect of numerous public buildings while associated with the technical office of the National Bank (Bānk-e mellī) and with the Ministries of Finance and Education. Architectural projects designed by him include the Ministry of Finance and a series of buildings for the National Bank including hospitals, bank offices in Tehran’s bāzār, and branches in Shiraz, Isfahan, and Tabrīz. He also advised and carried out several restoration and building projects for the National Monuments Council of Iran (Anjoman-e āṯār-e mellī, q.v.), including designs for the mausoleums of Saʿdī in Shiraz and Bābā Ṭāher in Hamadān. Forūḡī collaborated with Godard, Siroux, and Dubrul on the design of the master plan for the University of Tehran and its associated buildings, including the Faculty of Law and Political Science. During a long and productive career stretching over forty years, he worked with a number of well-known Persian architects, including ʿAlī Ṣādeq, Kayqobād Ẓafar, and later with Ḥaydar Ḡīāʾī (Architecte 5, 1328 Š./1949, p.185).
Although his approach to building design was fundamentally modern, Forūḡī had an intimate knowledge of traditional architectural principles, such as the use of ayvāns (q.v.), and in the application of kāšīkārī (faience revetment) to emphasize facades and main entries. The Bānk-e Mellī’s bāzār building in Tehran perhaps best embodies his style and represents Forūḡī’s modern rational approach to public edifices, in contrast to the pre-Islamic imagery of the main Bānk-e Mellī building in Tehran. Although the building is modern in its materials (reinforced concrete, brick, and cement mortar), interior plan, and elevation, its kāšīkārī decorative panels recall surface decorations used on traditional Persian buildings.
Forūḡī also designed many private residences and villas in Tehran in a distinctly modern style, setting the pattern for a new western floor plan, with functional rooms replacing the traditional spatial division based on private and public spheres of life (Marefat, 1988, pp. 224-32; see ANDARŪN).
As an architect, Forūḡī’s influence was considerable, and yet his greatest contribution may have been in the development of architecture as a profession. He was instrumental in the creation of the first school of architecture, the Society of Persian Professional Architects (Anjoman-e aršītekthā-ye īrānī-ye dīploma), and the founding of Architecte, Persia’s first professional journal dedicated to architecture. For the last sixteen years of his life, he was a foreign corresponding member of the highly prestigious Académie des Beaux-Arts (Gillet, p. 14).
Forūḡī married Leone Daviaud, a French citizen, in 1939, and they had two sons. He was noted for his kindness and hospitality towards scholars who came to visit his magnificent collection. He was also active in politics. In 1956, he served for one parliamentary session as a representative from Tehran. His later years were sadly marred by tragic events in his personal and public life. His younger son died in a riding accident while playing polo, and he himself was imprisoned for a while in 1961 on charges of corruption and mismanagement related to the construction of the Senate building in Tehran. He was later cleared of the charges and was a member of the Senate from 1966 until 1978 when he was Minister of Education and Culture for about three months in the two short-lived cabinets of Jaʿfar Šarīf Emāmī and General Reżā Azhārī, immediately before the fall of the shah. He was imprisoned after the revolution, on 1 April 1979, and his art collection was sequestrated and placed in the Archaeological Museum (Mūza-ye Īrān-e bāstān) at Tehran, the very museum to which, prior to the revolution, he had intended to leave his collection. He was released from prison on 27 December 1982 and died ten months later.
Personal interviews (by the author) with Moḥsen Forūḡī in 1977 and members of his family in 1985 and 1987. The EIr. would also like to acknowledge further biographical information and bibliographical material supplied by Parviz Foroughi.
P. Amiet and Ph. Gignoux, “Mohsen Foroughi (1907-1984),” Stud. Ir. 15, 1986, pp. 245-48.
“Āršītekthā-ye mā-rā bešenāsīd: Moḥsen Forūḡī,” in Architecte 6, 1327 Š./1948, pp. 213-19.
G. Gillet, “Discours de M. Guillaume Gillet, Président,” in Institut de France, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Séance publique annuelle du Mercredi 16 Novembre 1983, Paris, 1983, pp. 13-14.
M. Marefat, “Building to Power: Architecture of Tehran 1921-1941,” Ph.D. diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, 1988.
Idem, “The Protagonists Who Shaped Modern Tehran,” in Ch. Adle and B. Hourcade, eds., Téhéran, capitale bicentenaire, Paris and Tehran, 1992, pp. 95-125.
(MINA MAREFAT and EIr.)
Moḥsen Forūḡī’s main interest as an art collector was in the pre-Islamic art of Iran, and in this enterprise he was advised by Roman Ghirshman (q.v.). He collected only items of museum quality, from Luristan bronzes (see BRONZES OF LURISTAN), pottery, and ancient jewelry to Sasanian silver ewers and bowls. A leading expert on Parthian and Sasanian coins, M. Azīzbeglū, helped Forūḡī to acquire a fine collection of those coins. His large collection of Sasanian seals was augmented by clay sealings and bullae (q.v.) at the suggestion of Richard N. Frye. Islamic art objects, such as miniatures, pen boxes and pottery, however, represented only a small part of his collection, but they too were equal to any museum objects.
An indication of the range and quality of the Forūḡī collection in the 1960s can be gleaned from the catalogue of an important exhibition of Persian art which was held at the Petit Palais in Paris from October 1961 to January 1962 (Sept mille ans d’art en Iran: Exposition organisée sous les auspices de l’Association française d’action artistique, Paris, 1962), and for which he and Ghirshman were the chief organizers. Both in their number and quality, the items from the Forūḡī collection compare favorably with those from such participating public institutions as the Archaeological Museum in Tehran, the Louvre, and the Brooklyn Museum (PLATE I, PLATE II, PLATE III). His collection contained some beautiful specimens of pottery from Amlaš (q.v.) which were then just appearing on the market, as well as other items such as small statues and jewelry (numerous items, see the exhibition catalogue, pp. 15-28). Luristan bronzes from his collection were also well represented (pp. 31-80). His growing predilection for objects from the Sasanian period could also be surmised from some fine objects, including silver cups (p. 139, nos. 798-801, p. 140, nos. 808, 809, p. 141, nos. 812, 813) as well as glass cups and flasks (p. 145, no. 839; p. 146, no. 850). On the other hand, there were only a few indications (p. 147, nos. 853 and 856) of the future richness of his collection in seals and bullae. Art of the Islamic period also interested him and were represented in the exhibition (several items, pp. 166-91), and lacquer work dating from 1699 to the 19th-century (pp. 198- 200, nos. 1111-20) as well as 18th and 19th-century oil paintings (p. 204, nos. 1150-56).
Forūḡī’s house in Tehran was a small museum where new acquisitions were displayed in glass cases, and visiting scholars were always welcomed and assisted in studying his collections. Some items from his collection were donated to the Louvre during his lifetime (for a list of donations from 1957 to 1977, see Amiet, Stud. Ir. 15, 1986, p. 246). As described in the above biography, Forūḡī’s art collection was transferred after the Revolution of 1979 to the Archaeological Museum (Mūza-ye Īrān-e bāstān) in Tehran, where some of the items are now on permanent display. Forūḡī did not have a complete catalogue of all his objects, but several items which have been subjects of the scholarly articles mentioned in the bibliography to his obituary by Pierre Amiet and Philippe Gignoux (Stud. Ir. 15, 1986, pp. 245-48) give an indication of the richness of the collection.
(RICHARD N. FRYE)
(Mina Marefat and EIr, Richard N. Frye)
Originally Published: December 15, 2000
Last Updated: January 31, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. X, Fasc. 2, pp. 113-116