Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Mechanism of Transformation of Shiraz City from Past to Present

by K. Movahed

The city of Shiraz is the Iranian cities par excellence. Shiraz was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and was the Iranian capital during the Zand dynasty (1747- 79). Through its many artists and scholars, Shiraz has been synonymous with learning, nightingales, poetry, roses.
Particularly the city has expanded enormously and its great old structure was complemented by massive new urban developments. Now, it has two different structures, old and modern. The old structure consists of different gates and districts at different times. The modern structure has been chiefly set up around the old districts in suburbs. During the long history, different transformations can be recognized. One of its transformation started about 250 years ago when the city was designated the capital of Iran. During this period, the city changed to a renowned city, with the greatness of functioning urban spaces and infrastructure. The other transformation of the city happened in the more contemporary periods, when the city turned into a modern city. Shiraz, like any other Iranian cities, has been the subject of a major program of road building and physical reshaping. Followed by these radical initiations, the comprehensive plans for the city have changed Shiraz enormously.
Present-day Shiraz is a large, modern city, which has inherited a huge legacy from the past, but is confronted with the problems created by the clashes between its past and present. Whereas the 18th century development happened mainly in continuity with the traditional structure of the city, the 20th century changes have been in total conflict with the past. A major network of new streets suitable for vehicular traffic seems to have been the main intention behind all changes in the city.
Shiraz is still confronted with master planning proposals, which are more based on the wishes of the national and local planning authorities and urban designers rather than the true needs of the city. The historic fabric of the city is more and more invaded by construction of new roads that undermine the old structure of the residential and commercial quarters. To better understand the role and possibilities of planning and design, this study try to find the mechanism and the nature of these changes.
This paper attempts to address three main issues: first, the characteristics of the 18th Century development of Shiraz; second, the influences of the modern planning decisions and comprehensive master plans of the city; and third, the effect of building under ground road in the old Royal district of Shiraz.

Narenjestan Garden: a nineteenth-century garden and building in Shiraz, photo by birdfarm

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