Forming a national image through public projects
The Shahyad Arya-Mehr Tower
in Development, architecture, and the formation of heritage in late twentieth-century Iran
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Public architecture lends itself to official identity discourses and thus to the design of heritage. The Shahyad Arya-Mehr, a tower with a museum underneath, is arguably Iran’s most iconic monument, and has led a double life before and after the Revolution. Acknowledging the scholarship on this monument, this chapter analyses the edifice in terms of an urban ensemble in connection with middle-class housing estates as well as Mehrabad Airport in its vicinity. It is argued that through its specific design, the monument embodies a heritage arising from the dynamics of development and culture. Drawing on interviews and photo elicitation, the chapter elaborates the scalar function of the monument and its entanglements with heritage at local, regional, and national levels. The monument is polysemic and ambiguous as suggested in its career of signifying the monarchy as well as the revolutionary regime that replaced it. However, it is still a source of discontent at certain corners of the Islamic Republic. As a result, the museum underneath is slowly committed to oblivion while the dominance of the edifice in the urban space is directly challenged via the new 72 Tan Mosque. Here, various forms of nostalgia and heritage clash at an urban scale.

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