With its delicate framework and dazzling painted and punctured ceiling, Ali Qapu, the seventeenth-century Safavid gatehouse to the old city of Isfahan, is among the architectural glories of Iran, a monument to its illustrious past under the Safavids when the country developed into a great Persian Shi'ite empire. But when Reza Shah embarked on Iran's modernization in the late 1950s, the historic center was neglected, and a new city began to digest it. By 1964, Ali Qapu was in such a state of decay that Iranian officials sought the aid of experts at the Italian Institute for the Middle and Far East. Together, they initiated a restoration program that involved the training of native technicians and the development of a comprehensive urban plan for the historic city. Viewed as a model for future restoration projects throughout the Islamic world, this innovative and meticulous program was among the first winners of the AKAA in 1980.