Maybe you think that building a large cathedral mosque in an Islamic society such as Isfahan is a result of religious believes or in order to perform rituals, but there are some different motives. Looking over history revealed that building a Persian mosque had not been a matter of preparing a large space or large-scale structure, instead it was an effort to prepare spiritual space to members, a place to show dignity and peace.
In the seventeenth century, when Isfahan was one of a populous cities of the world, a modest Friday mosque was built on the side of the Naqsh-e-Jahan Square, not only for prayer or worshiping, but also for a wide range of daily activities such as schooling, social interaction and political events. It is said that Shah asked the most skilled architect of the city to build the most magnificent building in that area of Naqsh-e-Jahan Square, a building that showed Iranian dignity to the world. The architect designed a mosque with consideration of human scale. By human scale I mean that the mosque dimensions was in harmonious with human body. It gives a sense of friendliness and peace.
Another example of building a modest Friday mosque was In tenth centuries, when Seljuk shah revitalized Isfahan Friday Mosque. The mosque, located at a corner of the main city square, was a center social interactions, a place for integration of various neighborhoods, or even we can say an arena for talking with authorities, informing citizens about urban policies and genuinely, a place for spirituality. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012.
But why decision makers have tended to create huge monuments? The answer lies in “four sublimes” of megaproject management, which described by Flyvbjerg. The first of these, the “technological sublime”, here describes as the rapture engineers and technologists get from building large and innovative projects with their rich opportunities for pushing the boundaries for what technology can do, like building the tallest building, the longest bridge, the fastest aircraft, the largest wind turbine, or the first of anything. The structural design of large Isfahan cathedral mosque has been place among the best in the world.
The second is “political sublime,” which here is understood as the rapture politicians get from building monuments to themselves and their causes. Megaprojects are manifest, garner attention, and lend an air of proactiveness to their promoters. Moreover, they are media magnets, which appeals to politicians who seem to enjoy few things better than the visibility they get from starting megaprojects. Except maybe cutting the ribbon of one in the company of royals or presidents, who are likely to be present lured by the unique monumentality and historical import of many megaprojects. This is the type of public exposure that helps get politicians re-elected. They therefore actively seek it out.
Next there is the “economic sublime,” which is the delight business people and trade unions get from making lots of money and jobs off megaprojects. Given the enormous budgets for megaprojects there are ample funds to go around for all, including contractors, engineers, architects, consultants, construction and transportation workers, bankers, investors, landowners, lawyers, and developers. Finally, the “aesthetic sublime” is the pleasure designers and people who appreciate good design get from building, using, and looking at something very large that is also iconically beautiful, like San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge, Sydney’s Opera House or Isfahan large cathedral mosque.