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July 23, 2015

Iranian Nationality Room approved

The University has given its final approval to an Iranian Nationality Room in the Cathedral of Learning, opening the door for the room’s committee to begin fundraising.

Ali Masalehdan, ad hoc chair of the Iranian Nationality Room Committee, said the committee aims to raise $800,000-$1 million to design and build the room, with a goal of completing construction within five-eight years.

A new website,, will be launched shortly to facilitate fund-raising and provide information about the project.

Chancellor Patrick A. Gallagher granted final approval for the new room on July 16, Nationality Rooms director E. Maxine Bruhns told the University Times. “For a culture whose first efforts to create an Iranian Nationality Room began in 1958, this is, indeed, good news,” Bruhns said.

That initial interest was sparked when Nader Ardalan, then an architecture student at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon), and his uncle, the Iranian ambassador to the United States, toured Pitt’s Nationality Rooms.

When Ardalan graduated and a new ambassador was appointed a short time later, the concept for an Iranian room failed to move forward, said Masalehdan.

Although nearly six decades have passed, Ardalan, now an acclaimed architect, will play a role in overseeing the room’s design, Masalehdan said.

The committee plans to solicit concepts via a contest for design students in Iran. A design committee will select a handful of finalists, Masalehdan said.

Choosing a final design will be difficult, he admitted. The Iranian culture spans seven or eight distinct architectural time periods dating back nearly 2,600 years. Finances will dictate in part how extravagant the design can be, he said.

Masalehdan estimated there are about 1,000-1,500 Iranians in southwestern Pennsylvania, adding that the committee aims to raise funds from the Iranian community here and in other areas throughout the United States, including southern California; Texas; Washington, D.C.; New York; and Boston.

—Kimberly K. Barlow         

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