(January 2010) The role of transplant of planning concepts in strengthening local knowledge and planning culture: The specific case of Tehran

The role of transplant of planning concepts in strengthening local knowledge and planning culture: The specific case of Tehran  image

Cities are the products of interrelationship between different phenomenons  as culture, politics and economy. The spatial structures of cities sometimes evolved in response to these phenomenons and sometimes have contributed to creating or sharpening these changes. Today the global restructuring and cities' attempt to hold a place in urban hierarchy has created similar agendas under the umbrella of planning in different parts of the world. But despite the growing volume of international communication in planning, major differences exist in the ways that planning is conceived, institutionalized, and carried out (Friedmann, 2005). This paper which is part of my PhD research at Politecnico di Milano, tries to interpret the way that transplant of different planning cultures has strengthened the local knowledge and shaped the planning culture in case of Tehran.

Since becoming the capital of Iran about 200 years ago, Tehran has undergone many key socio-political and economical changes to become today one of the largest city region accommodating over 13 million people. The city growth, especially in mid-20th century, has been the direct response to changes in politics and economy at the times of rapid urbanization of the country. During this stage many concepts have been  transplanted from the west according to fashionable planning idea of the time.  These cultural transplants have melt in the growth and development of Tehran till now, becoming a part of local culture even changing institutional and social settings.  Today the contemporary Tehran shares similar planning problems of many large metropolises of the world. Reviewing the Municipality agenda for developing the latest Tehran Comprehensive Plan (2007), we notice that the authorities adopted approach  is based on repeating the successes that other major world cities have attained in the planning. It is not surprising to see the municipality 20 years vision for the Tehran as: knowledge-based city, sustainable city, liveable city, dynamic city and equal city. These objectives can be found today in many planning agendas regardless the location and somehow have been labelled as "global planning concept". But the question is how these emerging concepts can contribute in enrichment of planning culture and local tradition? How do they manage the development of the city ‘from within' or what Friedmann (2005) called a kind of endogenous development.

Notwithstanding all the efforts by local authorities to manage the growth of Tehran, the city has been struggling many problems and in one word the planning has been inefficient in managing the metropolis and guiding its future. The planning in Tehran can become more innovative if authorities understand the existing realities, local traditions and try to consider planning issues in dynamic way.

The preliminary methodology for strengthening the research is as follow:

  • Preparing list of spaces that have been produced due to cultural transplants and the way the new space has been adapted to socio-political and economical condition
  • Identifying the key element (leading idea) which is rooted in local culture and context in order to use as strategy for future guidance of city