Heirloom technology: Yazd’s windcatchers

Heirloom technology: Yazd’s windcatchers

When I visited the 3000-year-old city of Yazd, Iran, the old school technology I was most fascinated by is the windcatcher. Seen atop many a building in this arid city with an annual rainfall of 2.4 inches and summer temps frequently pushing 104°F, these towers are the predecessors to the swamp cooler. Basically, the wind shafts on the rooftops have directional ports, and only the one facing away from the incoming wind is left open. The wind gets sucked in and pushed down over water below, and the cooled air is circulated through the house. In the ancient homes I saw, the room at the bottom of the wind shaft had a little pool of water and the sides of the room were often built-in brick benches covered with carpet, where the dwellers would spend the hottest part of the day.


The city of Yazd has an underground water management system called the qanat that taps into subterranean water. This illustration from Wikipedia’s windcatcher page demonstrates how the windcatcher tech utilizes the qanat system to cool the air:


4 thoughts on “Heirloom technology: Yazd’s windcatchers

  1. Njmalhq says:

    These are in Sindh, Pakistan. Spectacular pictures, albeit a little dated:


  2. Shawn Connally says:

    We should be using this technology all over the U.S. Southwest! Even in Northern California we’ve been known to escape to the basement on a hot day, which helps considerably.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

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