Tehran’s reluctant urban centre
Representing the national capital
in Development, architecture, and the formation of heritage in late twentieth-century Iran
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This chapter examines the relationship between development, design, and heritage at an urban scale. It focuses on a large swathe of land north of Tehran within the Abbās Ābād district. Prior to 1979, this area was allocated to a new administrative centre for the capital, which was planned to contain iconic buildings, including the National Library and the City Hall. However, after 1979 and following several master plans, the area was earmarked as the country’s cultural centre. As such, it incorporates among other structures, the Iranian Academies, the National Library, the Sacred Defence Museum, the Book Garden, and most importantly, the iconic project of the Grand Mosallā of Imam Khomeini. The first three projects were the subject of significant post-Revolution architectural competitions in the 1990s as was the Mosallā. The chapter closely examines the evolution of this site before and after the Revolution and the competitions for the National Library, the Academies, and the Mosallā. This examination shows that official heritage-making after 1979 is increasingly channelled to sites of religiosity while in most other sites the past is committed to oblivion. This has been concurrent with the waning of public space while the masses are directed to controlled places such as the Mosallā.


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