Last November our PhD candidate Azadeh Mashayekhi presented a paper during the international conference Urban Change in Iran, organized by The Bartlett Development Planning Unit of University College London (UCL). She wrote this review for the Lebanese journal Portal 9 :
Given the recent political turmoil in Iran, discussions about the country in both Europe and North America tend to focus on geopolitics, sidestepping other critical issues such as urbanization. Tehran in particular, with a population of over 8 million, is one of the world’s largest cities yet figures marginally in most academic discussions about urban growth. The Bartlett Development Planning Unit of the University of College London (UCL) helped address this void by organizing the Urban Change in Iran conference this past November.
The conference received 625 abstracts from both Iranian and non-Iranian architects, planners, and urban researchersfrom around the globe. Over 120 of those academics and professionals attended the conference from November 8-9, which was timed precisely to coincide with World Town Planning Day.
After welcoming remarks from the hosts Bartlett Dean Alan Penn and scientific chair of the conference Yves Cabannes, the panel discussions covered a range of topics dealing with the dynamics of urban change and the socio-cultural forces driving that change, including the urban management mechanisms that could steer development. Ali Modarres, professor and editor of Cities: The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning, spoke about the challenges of situating and understanding urban changes in Iran within global urbanization. Parviz Piran, professor and representative of the Centre of Excellence in Urban Design at Shahid Beheshty University, described how urbanization and modern urban changes in Iran lack a context-based approach by comparing traditional Iranian cities to contemporary urban developments. James Jackson of the University of Cambridge added urgency to the discussion by addressing the challenges of earthquakes in Iranian cities and the fact that Iran ranks fourth among all countries prone to natural disasters in the world.
The conference served as a long-awaited platform to debate these highly contested topics and to bring together professionals, young architects, planners, and researchers. Nevertheless, most of the panel discussions remained abstract and theoretical, and the views from practitioners, as opposed to academics, working in Iran were sorely absent. Two fundamental questions for Iranian and international architects and planners emerged from the conference: Firstly, how do we identify new ways of thinking about Iranian cities with a more international perspective? Secondly, how do we excavate possible futures by understanding the past and present of our cities?
Souce: Portal 9