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Age-old Persian splendor of Zacherl Factory in Vienna

Zacherl factory (Zacherlfabrik) is Vienna’s most charismatic exhibition venues, taking the architectural heritage of Safavid Persia.

Zacherl factory (Zacherlfabrik), as one of Vienna’s most charismatic exhibition venues, has taken the architectural heritage of Safavid Persia, e.g. the Royal Mosque in Isfahan.

Looking at the title image, some of you may have thought that it is a photo from Iran or Uzbekistan. But it is not so. The photo truly comes from Vienna and shows an old historic factory. And now try to guess what had been produced in this factory.

Built by rich entrepreneur Johann Evangelist Zacherl in late 19th century, Zacherl factory, which produced insecticide, has been closed for many decades. The main factory hall was reopened as an art space in 2006 and has since become established as one of Vienna’s music soirees and exhibition venues.

The tiles show typical Persian patterns but were made in Vienna’s Wienerberger brick factory. The relief patterns used are also reminiscent of sacral buildings in Iran or Central Asia.

The factory, built in 1888 by Austrian architect Karl Mayreder, is reminiscent of a mosque. It is dominated by two minaret-like towers and an onion-shaped dome. Today, the building is used for exhibitions and concerts.

But why would a wealthy industrialist in late 19th century Vienna have his factory designed in the style of a Persian mosque? 

The answer is quite simple: The product which had made the Zacherl family rich and which was produced in their factory was Zacherlin, an insecticide made from the dried flower heads of Tanacetum coccineum and Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium, flowers that were grown in and imported from Persia.

The Persian-looking façade recalls the economic relations with the country of origin of the insect powder that used to be made there.