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The Amazing Windcatchers of Yazd: Talk by Dr Susan Roaf - March 4, 2020 in London


Source: The Iran Heritage Foundation

Date & Time: Wednesday 4th March at 18.30
Venue: Asia House, 63 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7LP
Organised by: The Iran Heritage Foundation

Windcatchers in Yazd, Iran
Historic city of Yazd is on UNESCO's world Heritage List
(photo by Mohammad Hosseini, ICHHTO)


We take so much for granted when we look only at the visible structures of buildings, but windcatchers demonstrate that their invisible attributes may often be more important. Their story in Yazd reaches out in many directions, showing how one apparently simple design feature links us to many aspects of the physical, historic and political past of the whole region.  We see the extraordinary achievements of the great builders, the Ostads of Yazd, who over time evolved evermore amazing towers, utilising the natural energy from their sites and regions to bring comfort cooling, and luxury, to desert homes.  Windcatchers reflect well the turbulent 19th century decades when wealth was harvested from the far shores of China to make the towers ever more elaborate, their height and fineness mirroring the rise and fall of Persian dynasties and the ebbing and flowing of the tides of international change. While today their appearance adds so much to the economy of the city through tourism, it is their performance as cooling systems that will eventually leave a mark on all our futures. There are no passive structures in the world as effective as these towers at cooling the internal climate of buildings. Using a dazzling array of strategies they modify temperatures and humidities in and around the living areas of the traditional homes of Yazd, and will do so again, when we will all have to increasingly turn back the clock to naturally ventilate buildings in our common, challenging, future in a Heating World and Climate Crisis.


Dr Susan Roaf is Emeritus Professor of Architectural Engineering at Heriot Watt University, and an award-winning author, architect and solar energy pioneer. In 1995 she designed and built the Oxford Ecohouse, a pioneering home best known for having the first solar roof in the UK. Her academic research includes solar systems, micro-grids, energy storage, low carbon, sustainable and eco design, and traditional energy technologies. She is a promoter of passive design and is working on 'extreme design' ideas for hot deserts and in Antarctica (

Her awards include 2013 Top 6 UK 'First Women' Awards as a 'Visionary in the Built Environment'; 2013 Top 10 'Women in Architecture' Awards, Architect's Journal; and in 2010 'the AJ's most influential UK architectural academic' in the field of Sustainable Design. She has judged for a number of national and international design competitions and is an expert adviser to organisations in the USA, Austria, New Zealand, Norway and Italy.

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