Revisiting the transnational building of a modern planning regime in Iran: the first Tehran master plan and the interplay between local and foreign planners

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Abstract

In the late 1960s, the first Tehran Master Plan (TMP) was envisioned by a constellation of local and foreign experts. The TMP, which has been extensively studied, is usually credited to big-name planner and architect Victor Gruen. Scholars have neglected the contributions of local professionals in shaping the plan. Many depict the TMP as the product of Cold War geopolitics and a scheme directly exported to Tehran to facilitate top-down modernization promoted by the pro-American Shah. This popular narrative flattens the complexity of transnational urbanism and obscures the transformative role performed by locals therein. Through archival studies and conducting interviews with local planners involved in the TMP, this paper aims to discover the complex nexus between national and international actors and unravel how Iranian planners collaborated with foreign counterparts to negotiate Tehran’s urban problems and project the future of the city. This paper argues that Gruen served as a figurehead to validate the formation of the first planning document for Tehran by young local planners who had their own planning agenda. The conclusion argues that the transnationalism of planning practices in Iran grew out of an attempt to institutionalize a modern planning regime compatible with global standards while nurturing local experts.

Keywords

  • Tehran
  • Transnational urbanism
  • knowledge transfer
  • master planning
  • modern planning regime
  • nexus of planners

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