Architecture Technology X-Files

The Innovative Approach Of The Past: 2,400-Year-Old Refrigeration System

ancient engineering

During a period when electricity was only a thing for the Gods, around 400 B.C.E., in the hot-arid deserts of Iran where temperatures touched 40 degree centigrade, ancient engineers had found a way to keep their ice from melting. Two thousand years back, a cold storage facility was being used. The impressive thing about it – it was clean and sustainable technology.

Ancient Ice House

Yakhchals – this construction which shows a close resemblance to the pyramids or ziggurats are in reality very different from the same. The aim to make this structure was to store ice in the desert, during summers. Indeed, how were those residing in the Middle East managing to stay cool during scorching heat! The answers lie with the yakhchals which acted as the refrigerators to store food, beverage and ice. The work of Persian engineers was nothing short of excellent.

yakhchalsYakhchāls, ancient evaporation coolers, came into being around 400 BC. (Image Source)
iran-_de-sert_-_yakhchal_inside_-_inte-rieur_dune_glacie-re_-_persian_cooler_-9246947525Ice is created and stored in these specially designed, actively and passively cooled refrigerators.

Wind Catchers

Wind catchers – there are also known as wind towers. Till date, they stand well in the Middle East. These structures were fabricated by the engineers of the era. And, the objective of these structures was to provide the much needed natural ventilation in the big buildings.

wind-ctachersWind catcher is a traditional Persian architectural element to create natural ventilation in buildings

The structures are that old, that they belong to the antediluvian reminiscent.

haj_mohammad_taghi_ab_anbar_with_6_windcatchersTo keep buildings free of dust and sand blown in from the desert, windcatchers were built facing away from the wind

These are found in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran as well. And, their architecture has that specific Persian architectural influence. In fact, these are also found in Egypt. However, in Egypt they are called as Malqaf.

 – Versatile styles and sizes are reflected in its fabrication. Hence, you will be able to see the unidirectional, bidirectional and multi-directional.

– The construction material utilized is mostly thick ceramic which is associated with high insulation values.

– The acumen behind constructing these wind towers is associated with the climate of the region.

– The towns in the desert areas constructed closely together. They have high walls and ceilings.

– Since, the wind catchers have small window facing away from the sun, the heat of direct sunlight is minimized.

– Naturally the engineering mastered in making them, ensures that they have been serving as the finest air conditioner for thousands of years.

– It is again fascinating to witness the functioning in 2 ways –

1. Directing the airflow downwards, utilizing direct entry of the wind.
2. Directing the airflow up utilizing a temperature gradient by wind or sun.

In fact, this same engineering is utilized in the modern architecture. An example of the same is witnessed in the form of the visitor center at Zion National Park. Here there is no mechanical device utilized to regulate temperature.

Needless to add, that immense rests to be learned from the ancient to carve the modern world in a better way!

featured image©Julia Maudlini

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