Housing Contemporary Forms of Life: A Project for Tehran

A research project at the Berlage Institute 2011-2012, tutored with Hamed Khosravi and Amir Djalali. Participants: Golnar Abbasi, Mochammad Yusni Aziz, Claudio Cuneo, Lei Mao, Olivia Marra, Jooyoun Yoon

In Tehran collective life proliferates almost entirely in interiors. Commercial, productive and living activities are confined within a limited variety of architectural types stretching throughout the metropolis as a continuous field of urbanization. This condition is the result of many causes, which are local and global, recent and ancient. On the one hand, after the Islamic Revolution public space has been highly regulated and controlled, to the point that many citizens do not perceive it as a safe place. At the same time, enclosure is a peculiar condition of the Islamic city. Because of climatic, social and theological reasons Middle-eastern cities developed as a series of walled compounds, delimiting the domains of the family, ethnic and social groups, wealthy gardens and religious institutions. Tehran also shares the destiny of all global, neoliberal metropolis: the collapse of state welfare; a general transformation of the economy towards distribution and personal services; migrations and the emergence of metropolitan paranoia and gated communities. But because of its history, Tehran was somehow equipped to cope with these trends, and offers itself as a case to explore the possibility of collective life and political engagement in the contemporary metropolis, beyond the nostalgia of public space.