Urban Change in Iran: Two Millennia of Urban Planning


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Iran is known as one of the oldest civilisations in the world, and many of the origins of urban planning and design can be traced back the country. The Persian built environment has been a major influence in shaping an urban tradition now generically considered to be that of the Islamic city; not only that, but it has had a considerable impact in regions beyond the Islamic world, reaching the Iberian Peninsula amongst others.

However, this is not well known in other parts of the world, largely as a result of the socio-political issues that the region has been going through in the past decades. Today, Iran is a modern developing country with more than a 50-year long history of adopting town planning regulations, with the second largest population in the region covering the second largest area within the Middle East and West Asia. It also boasts the greatest (7 out of 28) number of cities above the million mark in the region; Tehran, Iran’s capital, being the most populated city in the Middle East.

Furthermore, Iran is experimenting rapid urbanisation with around 68.5% if its population living in urban settlements with remarkable economic, cultural and social development. Hence, the country’s policies respond to diverse driving forces, from cultural heritage and industrial activity to the development of resilient cities prone to natural disasters (Iran is the fourth most natural-disaster prone country in the world, with many of its cities frequently subjected to severe damages throughout their histories.)

Truth is that Iran’s drivers for urban transformation are diverse, multi-scalar and dynamic and as such the region is an exciting place that is often overlooked for a variety of reasons. From heritage sites such as Persepolis to cities built to withstand on-going natural hazards, Iran has an outstanding track record in urban planning.

This Big City is thrilled to be the Media Partner of Urban Change in Iran – the first conference of its kind to bring together top practitioners, academics and specialists of the built environment from Iran in the Western world. The event will run in London from November 8th-9th where professionals will discuss the most pressing issues related to urban planning in the region, from historical urbanism as a tool for modern development and strengthening of local identities to best practice to mitigate the risks of natural disasters.

To see the full program click here. We’ll be covering the event via Twitter using the #urbchaniran hashtag. Follow us during the 8-9th of November for full coverage.

Image via David Holt London