Article by Rachel & Avi Abrams, link

Pigeons Get the Best Architecture... Who Knew?

Before somebody decides that these look like disguised missile installations, let us assure you that people of Iran built them for one purposes only: to keep a bunch of pigeons happy.

Even stranger than Strange Towers of the Third Reich, these terracotta-colored (favorite pigeon color) structures dot Iranian landscape, some more than 20 meters high.

(images credit: Jadid Online)

Luxury Accommodations for Harmonious Pigeon Living

The beautiful architecture of Ancient Persia was built around eight traditional forms which were combined in endless variations. Like the eight notes of the octave, these were arranged into a myriad of forms and structures woven into a seamless whole.

Little wonder then that the designs for even the most ignoble of buildings - a pigeon house - strike viewer as wonderful and intricate. The greatest number of these are found in and around the city of Isfahan (some are round, and some are square):

(images credit: Jadid Online)

Abandoned... but not because pigeons stopped liking them

There were thousands of these buildings during the Safavid dynasty, about the 16th century CE. They were built to collect the droppings as fertilizer for melon and cucumber fields... However, in modern times chemically produced fertilizers have drastically reduced the viability of the bird guano industry and as a result not many of these structures have survived to the present day. The droppings were also used in the process of tanning leather.

(image credit: Arthur Thevenart/CORBIS)

Pigeons in Cubicles

The buildings were constructed in such a way that the birds were quite comfortable and clean on their roosts as the droppings fell straight onto the floor.

Each pigeon sat in a neat cubicle (or a "capsule hotel" room, single occupancy) - hundreds of them swirling up in a dazzling geometric pattern:

(image credit: YoungRobV)

...almost like a "Grand Hyatt Shanghai" lobby:

The buildings were honeycombed with hundreds or even thousands of roosts:

(images by Hamzeh Karbasi Zadeh, Jadid Online)

The elaborate corridors and stairways, many floors and even more levels can make you easily feel lost:

One wonders whether the modern concept of the cubicle office was inspired when an architect was watching all the pigeons flying back to the dovecote. Just the connection a manager would make: lure fat birdies to the top of a tower with tasty-looking seed, then pigeonhole them and collect the mountains of... um, stuff, they produce. Let them fly wherever they want so they feel free, then back they come, day after day...

Snake Traps are Included

The arched patterns and zig-zagged stone near the top of the tower is specially made to prevent snakes from climbing into the holes. The pigeons should feel sheltered and safe:

(images by Jadid Online)

World-Class Pigeon Architecture, Elsewhere:

While the Persian pigeon towers may be the most beautiful, Iran is by no means the only country to have such towers. A passion for pigeons is a worldwide phenomenon with a long history: since time immemorial people have been building pigeon lofts from the simple to the sublime.

First pigeon towers were built in ancient Egypt, and today pigeon houses can be found all over Europe and even in North America, although in these cases the birds are kept as a hobby or for racing.

Some Ancient Egyptian Towers:

(image credit: etibar2)

(image credit: efele)

(images by Maryanne Gabbani and katerinamusik)

This is Not a Tomb! -

(image credit: lilitary)

King Herod kept carrier pigeons at Masada:

(image credit: Fred Vanderbom)

In England they are known as dovecotes or columbaria, from the Latin name of the pigeon family. English dovecotes were connected with a large estate or manor and were a symbol of status - the greater the land of the estate, the bigger the structure could be:

(images credit: Matt Smith)

Near Bruges, Belgium (15th century):

(image credit: Nils Geylen)

Other great pigeon houses in Italy and England:

(images by Saffi and Aiden McRae)

I don't remember seeing these is in Paris... evidently I was looking at all the wrong things. This is a wonderful twin-tower pagoda style:

(image credit: Sydorenko-n)

And a stunning neo-classical(?) "French Shrine to the Pigeon":

(image credit: Pevishkis)

Bavarian Dovecotes in Tudor Style:

(images credit: Christiane)

Russians Take Their Pigeons Seriously

Apartment dwellers get in on the fun, no matter how small the available space:

(image credit: Oleg Kolesnyk)

And then there's the more elaborate balcony roost:

(image credit: justandrew)

Another contender for the Pigeon Shrine award, this time in the Moscow zoo:

(image credit: torkut)

And finally a Russian Pigeon House which is more or less the antithesis of Persian architectural sensibilities...

(image credit: mosdoves)

References: 1, 2, 3, 4

Also Read Strange Towers of the Third Reich!

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Category: Architecture,Travel


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting post, as usual.
in scotland we call them 'doocots' a 'doo' being a pigeon.
one really nice one here, and a few rather less nice urban ones from hidden glasgow

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog is simply amazing.

In Israel we have quite a few dove columbariums chiseled in stone inside vast underground cave complexes. These caves are assumed to be places of hiding that the Judean rebels built and fortified in preparation for their rebel against the Roman empire:


BTW, I think that many times the doves were kept not only for their droppings, but also for their meat. A known Palestinian dish is stuffed dove.

Blogger Unknown said...

In my home town (Cincinnati OH), they brought in pigeons decades ago to get rid of the insects.

Now they need to get rid of all the pigeons!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Hungary too you find specific pigeon houses.
above the gate at the entrance of the land, there is a pigeon house whose size and details reflect the wealth and status of the landowner
(forgot the name, only been there years ago).

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The English Pigeon tower is situated in Rivington near Bolton in Lancashire. It was originally built by William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme in the early 1900's. Although the first two floors were used as dovecotes, the top floor was actually a sewing room for Lady Leverhulme.

William Lever is famous for founding the Lever Brothers soap company which eventually became the huge international conglomerate Unilever.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for using my picture; I had no idea the post was going to be so interesting. Great read!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the photo labeled:

And a stunning neo-classical(?) "French Shrine to the Pigeon"

looks like the museum of Salvador Dali in Firgures, Spain. Great collection!

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Dali Museum? Close, but not quite...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brasilia, Brazil has a pigeon tower designed by Oscar Niemayer


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a temple-style pigeon house I found in Suwon, South Korea.

Blogger ... said...

I'm from Iran and we didn't use these towers to make them happy! There are some reasons:
1. To eat their meats and their eggs!
2. To use their droppings for fertilizer. This could be the main reason, because most of pigeon towers are built near farms and fields.
3. To have some entertainment! (take care of them as pet and/or to participate them to a flying race!)
4. And use them as a courier.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are near 1000! pigeon buildings in Palencia, a province of Spain:



Blogger Brian Pigeon said...

What a great post! Pigeons so got it good everywhere else. What happened over here, that's what I wanna know?
Your pal
Brian Pigeon

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fantastic collection of photos of pigeon houses. Best I have ever seen. You really help preserve the history of this bird as an essential part of early farming and communication. Thanks!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just discovered this post, researching history of our NYC pigeons. Fantastic, thank you. And great links in the comments, too. Beautiful structures, some. And wonderfully kitschy, others.


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