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A toolbox for the design of a network of public spaces in Tehran

Urban Design Research

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Type: Urban Design and Research / Status: Concept Design, Reconstructing the Change, TU Berlin  / Location: Tehran, Iran / Year: 2022

Work in Collaboration with Hazem Bassal, Azada Taheri

Reconstructing the change and designing a toolbox of strategies is a research project examining the Imamzadeh Yahya neighborhood, an old neighborhood near the Bazaar. Imamzadeh Yahya is a historical neighborhood with historical buildings and traditional housing typologies with courtyards. The district includes housing and mixed-use typologies such as workshops and retail spaces. Since we haven’t visited Imamzadeh Yahya in person, we conducted online research, watched the virtual tour of the neighborhood, and analyzed the district through the study of Bavand consulting engineers.

According to the Bavand consulting engineers’ study, Imamzadeh Yahya has several issues such as migration challenges of the local community leaving the neighborhood, heavy traffic problems, degradation of the social environment, decayed buildings and infrastructure, lack of green spaces and recreational facilities, and lack of healthy environment. The limited number of interviews highlighted the lack of green spaces, the existence of addicts in public spaces, lack of cultural and social activities and leisure facilities, lack of safety in public places, low quality-built environment, and heavy traffic caused by cars passing through. One of the interviewees mentioned abandoned houses and how they can be used for gatherings and events after being renovated.

Through the virtual tour of the neighborhood, we noticed the lack of public spaces for people on the streets. The streets are generally narrow, only allowing cars to pass, and when they are wide, they are used for car parking. There is a lack of public and leisure spaces for social interaction. Going through Instagram, we came across images showing the appropriation of a street corner by plants, a small fountain on the wall, or children watching an artist painting on the street enthusiastically. We started to notice how small corners on the streets or small activities can make big differences in social interaction and enhance the public space. Although the neighborhood has various problems and disadvantages, within the scope of the lecture and the urban design tools, we decided to focus on the issues related to public space and small interventions.

After grasping the physical aspects of the neighborhood and seeing that there are few opportunities for people to stop for a short time, relax, spend time or come together, we decided to focus on small interventions for creating community interaction. We researched approaches and urban design tools to create public spaces that will catalyze social interaction and community meetings.

Our main concept can be summarized as below:

Typical Neighborhood Parks/Public Spaces

Requires substantial public space, and needs to be part of the initial design of the neighborhood. A decision to include a park/public space as an afterthought in a dense residential neighborhood would mean replacing homes!

 

Break up into smaller pieces

Breaking up a park/public spaces into smaller areas allows for easy distribution of open spaces in contexts where public space is scarce. And allows for a more even distribution of green space across the entire neighborhood.

 

Deconstructed Park/Public Space

Niches, current parks, and courtyards scattered all over the neighborhood will include small pocket parks/public spaces that when connected to one another allow for a network of small open spaces.

 

We propose to adopt a tactical urbanism approach for short-term, low-cost, easy-to-implement, and scalable interventions in the existing opportunity sites that we identified, like niches mainly used for car parking, abandoned buildings, and parks, which will be detailed in the next part. Opportunity sites can become community interaction spaces like little plazas, sitting places, community pocket parks, communal dining areas, and workshops. If small interventions work and are appropriated by the community, they can induce long-term change, increase street safety for people and improve the quality of public spaces.

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