Social and Cultural Impact Assessment of Restoration Projects: A Case Study on Restoration of the Baladiyeh Building (Former Municipality Building of Tehran)
Nasser Fakouhi1, Zahra Ghaznavian2, Hamed Jalilvand3
1Associate Professor of Urban Anthropology, University of Tehran, President of Iranian Institute of Anthropology and Culture (IIAC)-firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
2Urban Anthropologist (University of Tehran / IIAC) – firstname.lastname@example.org
3Urban Anthropologist (University of Tehran / IIAC) - email@example.com
Abstract—two decades after the enactment of the earliest Baladiyeh legislation, the first Baladiyeh building (municipality building) was established at the northern wing of Toopkhaneh Square (currently the Imam-Khomeini square). The constructional works lasted between 1921 and 1923. Through the course of time, as modernization began to take place, the square lost its sense of significance and underwent tremendous changes in appearance until 1969 when it was entirely destroyed. However, as part of the Toopkhaneh Square quality improvement initiative in 2004, the Baladiyeh building is to be restored and rebuilt anew in lines with the historical integrity of the area. This study seeks to investigate the various social and cultural impacts of the project and propose certain measures for the betterment of the project.
Accordingly, a combination of qualitative techniques including observations and interviews and quantitative approaches including questionnaires were used to extract the main features of the project and generalize the resulting data to larger scales. A total of 30 interviews were conducted and 400 of the acting bodies of the project were questioned.
The results indicate that the sole act of restoring the Baladiyeh building lacks the adequacy required for securing the demands of the executive bodies and is highly conditioned, in part, on how the negative effects of the project are controlled in regards to traffic, health, security, ... as well as on whether a multi-dimensional context-oriented approach will be considered, especially towards policies and environmental management, rather than a one-dimensional structural view.
Square, Toopkhane, Baladiyeh, Tehran, Resotration, Social and Cultural Impact Assessment
The Toopkhaneh Square in Tehran, otherwise known as Sepah or Imam-Khomeini square, is essentially a shared portion of space that acts as a portal to the past history of Iran. The area has been witness to many historical happenings and provides a great outlook on both past and current events and undertakings of many leaders and authorities as well as how modernization took place. During the reign of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar and at the behest of Amir Kabir, minister at the time, orders were issued for the establishment of this square, which later, still under the ruling of Naser al-Din Shah, took the place of Sabzeh Meydan (Sabzeh Square) as the city center. The square was then used as the main setting for various activities. Amid factors that make this square and its branching streets highly significant is their vicinity to the Shah’s living quarters, placing it among the primary subjects of modernization. For instance, Toopkhaneh square and its branching streets including Bab-e Homayoun, Naser Khosro, Bagh-e Shah (currently Imam Khomeini street), and parts of Lalehzar street were among the first streets of Tehran to be asphalted. Some of these streets were also among the earliest streets to be paved with cobblestone and prepared for horse-drawn cartridges, in mimicry of French cities. Through the course of time, as rulers came and went, the square was transformed into a political area wherein many political happenings occurred including acts of accordance, protests, executions, and where many statues of past kings and queens were taken down (specially the taking down of the Reza Shah statue during the 1953 Iranian coup d’état). All these events added, in time, to the historical significance of the square.
However, the square soon began to lose its grace and significance as Tehran began to develop northward and many residents moved towards the northern sectors of the city, while structural mayhem began to take shape as the result of rapid demolition of buildings and construction of new buildings. The square would soon after become a major traffic node, functioning as a commercial hub suffering from intense traffic and air pollution, without even the slightest remnant of the historical locality it once used to be. Studies about the square were eventually launched in 1995 by Amood Consulting Engineers Company. The square was later added to the Comprehensive Agenda of Tehran Municipality (approved in 2006) as a critical area in need of organizational measures, with great emphasis on restoring its historical identity. In 2010, the provost of Tehran appointed Tehran Beautification Company as the custodian for handling and approving all related projects about urban squares and plazas throughout the capital. The Toopkhane Quality Improvement Project was proposed in 2011 by Amood Consulting Engineers Company, in which the restoration of the Baladiyeh building (former municipality building of Tehran) was stated.
The earliest enactment of the Baladiyeh legislation was carried out in 1903, during the reign of the Qajar Dynasty. Two decades later, the Baladiyeh building (the first municipality building of Tehran) was constructed by Nikolai Markov, and Iranian-Georgian architect, at the order of Mousier Caspar Ipekian, the Armenian provost at the time. The constructional works lasted between 1921 and 1923 and the building was situated at the northern wing of Toopkhaneh square. The building was two floors high and made from bricks and plaster, which at the time were the common architectural feature of Iranian buildings. The Baladiyeh building underwent a tremendous amount of change in appearance, particularly in its façade, due to being a symbolic icon of the city. Eventually, the building took on a rather asymmetric exterior due to striving to appear both modern and traditional, and was entirely demolished in 1969. The local space remained open for a long period of time and was commonly used for bus and taxi stations. The location has maintained its transit function to this day. The Baladiyeh building restoration project was approved in 2004 by the Commission for the 5th Enactment of Tehran Municipality. This study seeks to assess the social and cultural impacts of this project and investigate potential functions of the square, both old and new, and prevent or in the least minimize any damages caused by the project for individuals and groups. The study also proposes to identify and analyze the positive and negative outcomes of this developmental intervention as well as to propose certain measures for a more optimal implementation of the project.
• What are the social and cultural impacts of implementing the project?
• What strategies are recommended for a successful implementation of the project with respect to social acceptance?
In sum any intervening action or project has certain impacts on its surrounding environment. Identifying these impacts can help promote positive outcomes and increase performance of the project while eliminating or reducing it negative outcomes. Social and cultural impact assessment (SCIA) studies for the proposed project are no exception to this rule and are profoundly essential for the following reasons: 1) One cannot neglect the consequences of such a project considering the historical, political, commercial, functional, urban, and trans-regional significance of the many occupations currently carried out in the study area in conjunction with the large number of individuals who are in some way engaged with the area, particularly due to the fact that certain conflicts of interest are evident among various groups engaged with the project (conflicts in official, semi-official and unofficial occupations and conflicts of interests of the private and public sectors). It is worth noting that similar projects at a city-wide scale are generally rare in Tehran and the few cases which have been conducted have been on a much smaller scale. 2) Restoration of the Baladiyeh building puts the explicit benefits of certain groups at risk and influences their occupational status (for instance taxi drivers or owners of shops in the northern wing of the square). 3) The social and economic costs of the project are rather high and its implementation will introduce expansive changes in the context and living conditions of certain civil servants in the area. Now is the time to ask whether the proposed function for the area will be able to attract the public and whether it is in accordance with the aims of the chief executive of the project.
The primary objective of this study is to identify and analyze the outcomes of the project with respect to society (relationships between individuals and objective levels) and culture (mentality of individuals and abstract levels) in order to prevent damages to various social strata and attain sustainable success.
The Baladiyeh building is to be situated in an area of 18 thousand m2, comprised of 4 floors (2 underground and 2 above ground) with the following functions:
• 2nd level below ground (2nd basement): entrance to the subway station, secure corridor equipped with backup facilities, lavatories, prayer room, café
• 1st level below ground (1st basement): multi-purpose hall for various events including theater shows, plays, concerts, and exhibitions, with a capacity for serving 400 individuals (the floor continues to the ground floor), suitable space for historical photo galleries and tourist guide stands, internet kiosks
• Ground floor: conference hall (continued), book shop (with suitable facilities for children and ...), museum and art-way galleries
• First level above ground (1st floor): municipality museum and book café (souvenir and gift shop)
It is should be mentioned that the initial idea for the area is for it to become the City Hall of Tehran.
The proposed site for the construction of the Baladiyeh building is within the 12th municipal district of Tehran; the most significant historical part of Tehran situated at the city’s center, contributing to more than 3% (250 thousand) of the population of Tehran and considered the 17th most crowded region of Tehran. Extending to 16 km2 in area, the region comprises 2 percent of the area of Tehran and is has a relatively low population density (quoted from: detailed plan of the region, 2006). Demographic statistics also indicate a negative growth in population and increase in the number of immigrants from the region during the given period from 1976 to 1996. The population then seems to increase as the result of renovations and reconstructions (quoted from the chapter on Population of Tehran Metropolitan Atlas). The mean floating population of the 12th district of Tehran is 1,200,000 with a constant population of 320,000, a quarter of which are residents of the district. Accordingly, a significant change is sensed between day time and night time hours.
The detailed plan of the region (approved in 2006) indicates that 22% of commercial buildings, 5% administrative buildings, 11% storage houses, and over 22% workshops of the city are located in this region. By this token, the area plays a major role in the economy of Tehran as well as trans-regional wholesales. The plan also shows that only 30% of the area is residential and about 7.5% are made up of mixed land-uses or workshops (2006:10). The situation gets worse around the square, where there are virtually zero residential buildings. According to the Amood Constulting Engineers Company report, only 0.6 percent of the immediate environment about the project site fall within the category of commercial-residential land-use.
According to the detailed plan of the region, the rate of literacy in the region has dropped from 90.6% in 1996 to the current amount of 86.9%. Statistics from the municipality website also claim that 89.2% of the population are literate and 10.8% are illiterate. Accordingly, an approximate 8% of the study population were illiterate, while more than 55% had attained diplomas or were high-school graduates. Most of the remaining 37% had bachelor degrees or higher. The figures imply the relatively low rate of literacy in the region. The new site for the Baladiyeh building is situated in the first sub-region of the district, with an area of 361 hectares, located in the northern wing of Toopkhaneh (Imam Khomeini) square. The sub-region is considered the largest sub-region in the district as well as the most sensitive sub-region regarding strategic management. Apart from historical significance, the area is also known for enjoying a variety of spaces including prime governmental offices (including the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Deputy of Planning and Strategic Studies of the Office of the President, and ...), Embassy of the United Kingdom, Embassy of Turkey, Embassy of Germany, Embassy of Russia, Embassy of The Kingdom of Denmark, and more than 45 thousand business and trade operands. The first sub-region is comprised of two localities; Ferdowsi-Lalehzar and Baharestan-Sa’adi. The new site for the Baladiyeh building is located in the Ferdowsi-Lalehzar locality, which hosts a large body of historical buildings. The precise location of the new building extends to the backstreets of the Municipality from the north and to the Tejarat Bank Branch from the east, from the south it stretches to the telecommunications building, and from the west reaches the green spaces of the subway station. Currently, the area is being used as a taxi terminal. The project is to be implemented at Toopkhaneh Square, which is considered a significantly important at-grade junction, where most subway stations are located of the line 1 and line 2 metro lines, connecting west to east and north to south, meet.
The main occupations of the area can be categorized into three fields of:
Official occupations; civil services or professions directly or indirectly in contact with a certain union or guild, which in the case of Toopkhaneh Square include: business owners, taxi drivers, bus drivers, administrative occupations, etc. the corresponding occupations have been shown in the map below.
Semi-official occupations: professions which are not affiliated to or supervised by any official institutions. Such professions include street vendors, fortune sellers, bike deliveries, and ...
Unofficial occupations; drug dealers (Tramadol, Ritalin, Delta, Dragon, etc.), illegal CD brokers, and ...
One of the sub-cultural aspects of Toopkhaneh Square is the low number of young visitors and the predominance of masculine codes of conduct, which despite the occasional visits by women, has restrained the presence of women in general.
The identity of the square manifests as a combination of locational (relating to the squares situation as the center of transportation in Tehran), historical-political (witnessed many historical events), cultural (the core of modernization and gathering of artists), and commercial (an economic hub) components. Currently the commercial component seems to have taken over the remaining components. Moreover, the opinion of the people about the square appears to be a function of their location and situation, wherein the residents of the area, due to many complications in the region, generally belong to a lower strata compared to civil servants, and out of those who are civil servants, mostly the employed feel a sense of identity about the square followed by drivers, delivery men, and passengers (tourists). On the other hand, the street vendors, pedestrians, and shop keepers tend to have a one-dimensional and limited view of the area, based more on a profit-driven and economic approach, given their occupational demands and customer-driven rationale.
The chief problem of the area, as indicated by field investigations, is the issue of security, particularly during off-hours and weekends or holidays. Investigations show that the rate of domestic crimes tend to be much higher in the central regions of the city, particularly in districts 11 and 12 (Barani and Kalantari, 2010). Toopkhaneh Square and its surrounding and branching streets are within the main hotspot for criminal activities including bag-snatching, muggings, and various types of larceny. The square has also experienced a sufficient amount of muggings and assault throughout history. An instance of such crimes is described by Jafar Shahri in his book “A Glimpse at the Social History of Old Tehran” (Persian: گوشه ای از تاریخ اجتماعی تهران قدیم): “Sa’adi Street, which also used to be called Sheykh Street, had been nicknamed “Lokhti” (literal translation: nakedness, meaning: rob as in rob someone naked or rob someone clean) owing to the fact that there were close to zero pedestrians throughout the day, and the few who did visit the square were robbed clean of all they possessed”. Thus, one of the major challenges of urban management regarding the relatively high crime rate in the central regions of the Tehran, particularly around Toopkhaneh Square, is the issue of land-use and the secluded atmosphere about the square, especially at the end of days and during night time.
One of the significant shortcomings of Toopkhaneh Square is the low number of restaurants, diners, and eating houses, which is compensated for at the hands of street vendors and costermongers.
Historical description of the study area
Toopkhaneh Square has long stood as the venue for many monumental and historical events and plays a major role in the social, political, and cultural history of Tehran. The square would be the hosting site for numerous activities including festivals, military parades, fireworks, political meetings, political executions, etc. During the period of the Persian Constitutional Revolution and after the Nationalization of the Iranian Oil Industry and the 1953 Iranian Coup d’état, the square, given its vicinity to Negarestan Square (currently Baharestan Square) and the Royal Citadel, would be used as the main site for political gatherings of protestors and adversaries of the movement as well as supporters of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh (quoted from Wikipedia, Toopkhaneh article). According to Shahri, the square was also the main hosting site for festivals and street carnivals held in celebration of the cancellation of the D’Arcy Concessions, one of the most significant colonialist concessions in the history of Iran singed between Iran and Great Britain in mid-1993. Several other meetings and gatherings were also held at the square among political forces of the country including the 1953 Meeting of the Tudeh Party of Iran. The square was also witness to an assortment of rallies and clashes between opposing parties, ultimately leading to the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Many famous executions were also held at the square including the execution of Sheikh Fazlollah Noori, one of the prominent leading clerics of the time who despite his sympathy with the Iranian Constitutionalist Revolution in the beginning, soon turned against it, as well as the hanging of Nayeb Hossein Kashi, who alongside his followers (Nayebian-e Kashan) was famous for both being a Mujahid of the Constitutionalist Revolution as well as a marauder, with more emphasis on marauding. The Toopkhaneh Square is also well known for the execution of two infamous killers of Tehran; the first being Asghar the Murderer, an okra seller from Borujerd seduced, assaulted, raped, and later murdered adolescent boys by beheading them, so as to display himself as one of the most dreadful killers of Iran, and of course the first serial killer in Iran (Shahri, 1978: 200). He was executed on June 27, 1934. The second renowned killer was Mahmood the Murderer who was executed by the direct order of the Shah.
Concurrently, the Baladiyeh building also played a huge empirical as a symbolic icon and underwent tremendous changes in appearance until it was totally demolished between 1966 and 1969. After its demolition, the site remained an open space for a long period of time and was eventually used as a bus station and then a taxi terminal, which to this day is still operational.
One similar instance of a restoration project in a foreign country akin to the proposed project of this study is the restoration of the famous Place de la République square of Paris. Given its geographical location and political standing as well as its significance as a crowded transit, the square was among the priorities of urban management of the city; especially since many of the antique and symbolic squares of the city were restored during the presidency of Jacques Chirac. The square also acted as a political monument to the French Republic between the years 1879 and 1880 and had long been the outset for many political and civil events. Extending to 34000 m2 in area, the square is among the biggest plazas of Paris and one of the main urban elements of the 19th century. Apart from acting as one of the main communication portals of the city, the square is also enjoys a very symbolic quality. The Paris town hall (Mairie de Paris) added the development of the square as part of its main operational agenda with an emphasis on the symbolic significance of the square for the French Republic as well as revitalizing cultural heritage and restoring the square to its former state of dynamism and glory. The corresponding studies and investigations for this project were initiated in 2008. Accordingly, local residents, users, business owners, and citizens were interviewed and consulted with. The project was launched in the autumn of 2011 and became operational in 2013 after 5 phases of operations.
A similar instance of a domestic project aiming at restoring historical identity to a square was carried out in the 3rd municipal district of Isfahan, in an area of 32.5 hectares. The Atigh or Imam Ali square of Isfahan was the result of the reconstruction of Sabzeh Meydan (Sabzeh Square) or Kohne Square (translated from Persia: old square) of Isfahan. Prior to reconstruction, the social structure surrounding the square, which assumingly dates back to after the construction of the Naghsh-e Jahan Square, and is in fact said to be modeled after it, was very shabby and impoverished, due to being subject to years of negligence from authoritative bodies. The reconstruction project was implemented with the aim of ”boosting the historical texture of the center of Isfahan in 3 phases, using two approaches of direct and indirect intervention” and is one of the most prominent projects for reconstructing the old texture of Isfahan. Albeit successful in terms of architecture and urbanism, the project has received serious social and cultural critiques, some of which include: limiting the square of its previous dynamism, cutting the link between the square and its surrounding environment, and in the best case scenario taking away public space to replace it with a museum for tourists.
One must consider that creating spatial structures in a city will not necessarily lead to creating public spaces, i.e. it is only a necessary condition, not a sufficient one. Even convincing the public to make use of these spaces is at times not considered a success, since it is more of a “bubble-like” quality (held together not by structure but by skin) that will not lead to actual action on part of the civilians. In other words, although space has been created, a “sense of space” is missing, and this is what brings about the failure of most projects. Chirtian Norberg-Schulz, a contemporary architectural theorist and architect, believes that any natural environment has its own specific genius loci (spirit of space) that can be manifested through architecture. Although Schulz emphasizes more on the characteristics of natural environments and the simultaneous advancement of architecture, one must also consider the contagious nature of this genius loci (Norberg-Schulz, 2009). The genius loci is basically defined in terms of the cultural-social conditions required for a specific space, the least of which include a sense of security, freedom, recreation, and decreased social-economic stresses for those who live within the space, and theoretically extends much further. The genius or spirit is in a sense culture itself, or as Max Webber put it, a magical world made of conceptual structures in which man, akin to a trapped animal has immersed himself under the spell of enchantment (Fakouhi, 2002: 256). This highlights the need to focus on the concepts of “natural place” and “cultural environment” in architectural design and reconstruction. One of the most important features of any cultural environment is the distinctive identity of the environment which makes it distinguishable from or similar to other environments in the eyes of the people. Many scholars believe that place or rather space is the main identity of human beings, and that through finding their place, humans can find themselves. One of the key scholars of this concept is Shamaj. According to Shamaj, the hierarchy of the sense of space ranges from detachment to devotion and all that is in between, that is: detachment from space, awareness of space, belonging to space, attachment to space, becoming one with space, presence in space, and devotion to space” (Shamaj, 1991: 65 quoted from Sarmast). Living in an organized urban environment encourages social presence in public spaces, which in its simplest manifestations is in the form of “sauntering” with the ultimate objective of approaching true citizenship. Spectators who saunter about a street add to the urban value of that street. The same could be said about commercial centers; the higher the number of individuals visiting a street or a commercial center, the higher the rate of success gained for that street or center, granted that the appearance, anatomy, behavior, and cognitive bearings of the corresponding acting bodies are up to the expected standards. Theorists such as Henri Lefebvre, the French philosopher, have conceptualized and speculated on the matter. In an article on “the production of space”, Lefebvre argues that is not in fact a natural or transcendental phenomena, but a historical integrity produced by nature (Fakouhi, 2004: 239). Ergo, it is not the architects or engineers who build space, but rather the social relations which stream through space and build its foundation. Lefebvre regards that there are three sides to space, the physical, the mental, and the social. Accordingly, Lefebvre argues that there is a dialectic relationship between space and the social world, such that although space can only maintain its stability through social relations, it also engenders social relations, thus feeding itself through an endless cycle of social relations and spaces. Such social spaces are where urbanism transforms into citizenship. Each resident is then considered a citizen, albeit, as stated by the law, a citizen is a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth.
The present study employs a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods consecutively, meaning that the study area is initially analyzed using qualitative tools such as interviews, group discussions, observation until the various dimensions and involved parties of the project are identified and their opinions extracted (with an emphasis on using data in the form of images such as photographs and labeled maps).
Following the qualitative step enters the quantitative phase wherein the previous data are generalized and investigated using quantitative approaches such as the survey technique. Two types of data, descriptive and background were used for the study population and answers to different items of the questionnaire were also utilized, especially for cases which lacked sufficient statistical data. The study population included residents, owners of land, workers, and pedestrians within the inclusive surroundings of the Baladiyeh project site. Given the diversity of these groups, the groups were further divided into sub-categories using disproportionate stratified sampling. The population size was 400. ANOVA, Levene’s test, Tukey’s HSD, and independent t-test were used for inferential purposes.
Scoping is one of the most essential parts of SCIA which determines the scope and depth of the study and extends to temporal and spatial (geographical) studies, involved parties, sphere of influence, variables and articles, and ultimately the potential effects of a project. Temporally speaking, the SCIA analyses for this project were carried out before-hand and prior to the actual implementation of the study. From a geographical perspective, the study area, according to urbanism studies by the technical research team of the project, is divided into three layers of inclusive, immediate, and intervention, and correspondingly involves three interventions scopes of “direct”, “immediate”, and “inclusive”: the “direct intervention scope” is the actual Baladiyeh building located to the north of Toopkhaneh Square. The “immediate intervention scope” includes Mellat Street and Sa’adi Street from the east, Goudarzi and Shahcheragi and Kushk-e Mesri streets from the north, 30th Tir Street from the west, and from the south: Soor-e Esrafil and Fayaz Baksh streets. The “inclusive intervention scope” includes from the east: Mostafa Khomeini Street, from the north: Jomhouri Street, from the west: Vahdat-e Eslami Street, and from the south: Panzdah-e Khordad Street. The involved parties are comprised of 15 groups including drivers and workers of the local Baladiyeh Terminal, shopkeepers, street vendors, kiosk sellers, employees of administrative buildings within the area, local residents, store and warehouse keepers, pedestrians and subway and taxi passengers, porters, customers, nighttime operators and visitors, drug dealers located in the southern wing, domestic and foreign tourists, motorcyclists, and bike delivery-men. Based on the amount of impact the project has on the involved (acting) bodies, they can be divided into two categories: 1) individuals and groups who are directly influenced by the project, such as owners of small business located behind the municipality building (shopkeepers and street vendors), night time visitors and operators, motorcyclists, and bike deliveries and 2) individuals and groups who are indirectly influenced by the project and would not feel a significant difference in their living conditions were the project implemented.
The potentially impactful variables were also determined using common globally-used checklists comprised of 18 indicators including: traffic, health, security, identity, livelihood, infrastructure, inequality, landscape, familial relationships, conflicts, population, networks, power, leisure, cultural heritage and finally citizens’ satisfaction (Fazeli, 2012: 154).
Social and cultural impacts of the project
Traffic: considering the location of the main door to the Baladiyeh building, which is situated in the northern wing of the square, in conjunction with the cultural characteristic of visitors who feel inclined to exit their cars (personal or not) at the closest point to the main door, this part of the building is expected to become overcrowded, which poses a major problem, especially given that the functions considered for the building primarily include cinemas and conference halls, which by nature deal with a large and centralized audience who will remain in their locations until the corresponding event ends. Owing to these functions, alongside the elitist quality about the building, a large share of the audience are expected to come from the northern wing of the square who, culturally speaking, are more consistent with the functions of the building. The geographical location of the square also confirms this idea, since over half of the city is located to the north of Toopkhaneh Square. The assumption is further affirmed by study investigations which show that more than 60% of the study population reside in areas located to the north of the square. This pattern hints at the fact that traffic load from north to south would indeed increase compared to other directions. Adding to the already high rate of traffic, the Imam Khomeini metro station, one of the most important and crowded stations in the city, is also located in the study area. Another notable point about the area is the change that would occur in transportation following the implementation of the project and the effect that this may have in attracting audiences. Seeing as the Baladiyeh building is of a more recreational nature, the means of transportation will most probably be private (personal cars, bikes and motorcycles). Apart from all of the issues mentioned so far, the construction of the Baladiyeh building would indeed escalate the nuisance of inadequate parking space, which under current traffic conditions is the 4th most important problem of the square as indicated by the people engaged with the square.
Health: the second most serious problem of the square and it surrounding environment, according to investigations, relates to the high amount of waste and rubbish as well as the smell of sewage in the area. The construction of the Baladiyeh building could ameliorate the problem and by some degrees promote the overall health of the area by transporting the taxi terminal to the outer layers of the square and organizing motorcycles as well as by hiding from view the dumps located behind the municipality building. However, the construction of the building would cause the demolition of the current public lavatory in the area, and accessing the indoor lavatories of the building would naturally lack the publicity of the current public lavatory. Considering the population size of the square and the emphasis on increasing the presence of people within the study area, it seems that eliminating the existing public lavatories without replacing them would have negative consequences for public health as well as the commute of citizens to the square. In fact the lack of adequate lavatories is currently sensed in the strong smell of urine coming from the eastern underpass of the square.
Security: the primary problem of the square and its surrounding environment, as indicated by the investigations of this study, is the lack of security which allows for the “presence of thugs and hoodlums”, drug dealers, and certain raucous motorcyclists. Ideally, although the construction of the Baladiyeh building should in the long run be able to create and promote a sense of sensitivity, identity and participation about the square, the short-term prospects seem to only indicate an increase in population density. Many theorists have speculated about the notion of population density, most notably the American anthropologist Edward T. Hall. In his book “La Dimension Cahée (The Hidden Dimension)”, Hall explains about the various definitions of density, adjacency, and distance and states, by experimental assessments, that there is a direct relationship between increases in density and escalations in anxiety and aggressive and abnormal behaviors. By this token, the construction of the Baladiyeh building could potentially increase tensions and irregularities in both the square itself as well as its surrounding streets and means of public transportation. This in turn could inspire certain crimes, particularly bag snatching and robberies, or in the least escalate them. Another issue of security about the study area is the provision of security in the alleys located behind the municipality building so as to prevent the area from becoming an insecure urban environment, especially during off-time hours and daily living. Considering the currently dominant commercial function of the square, which would be marginalized after the construction of the Baladiyeh building, together with the current unconfined conditions of the square during the night, poses the potential risk of the area becoming a hangout for drug addicts and convicts. Nevertheless, demographic changes resulting from the construction of the Baladiyeh building could in fact increase the overall security of the square, especially during night time, provided that women and families are added to the current population of the square, which would lead to social dynamism and measures are undertaken in regards to the illumination of the area.
Local and cultural identity: as stated by the project stakeholders, the square is an “unsecure” and “polluted” urban environment with a very vague and unusual historical background. Approximately 46% of the study population were familiar with the history of the square, 2% were highly aware and over 23% stated that they were unfamiliar with the historical background of the square. Under these circumstances, the construction of the Baladiyeh building could indeed promote the local and cultural identity of the area and become an urban icon and part of the environmental identity of the area, provided that adequate measures are taken in regards to notifying the public about the history of the square (whether in the form of advertisements or environmental designs and events in the building itself). This is in consideration of the fact that many pioneering operations and firsts were launched at the Toopkhaneh Square, for example, one of the very first cafés in Tehran, named the “Loghanteh Café”, was located at the end of Bab-e Homayoun Street. Restoring such buildings may reminisce of the old Tehran as it took its first steps towards modernization.
Livelihood and occupation: given that most of the land-uses in the area have been considered as part of the identity of the square and that any change in land-use is subject to the natural expansion of the Bazaar during the course of time, the construction of the Baladiyeh buildings seems to pose no serious threats of damage to the ongoing occupations (with the exception of maybe a few groups which may only be subject to minor changes in their manner of work and arrangement). In fact, the construction of the new Baladiyeh building will encourage new occupations and promote the status of the occupations already at work by first organizing the new work opportunities within the building, after it has become operational, and secondly promoting jobs and quality of services which are directed at the visiting population including drivers and transporters, grocery stores, tourists lodging houses, etc. and lastly anticipating new job opportunities related to the new building and its surrounding environments so as to serve the needs of the visitors. These new job opportunities may range from selling cultural souvenirs (which is currently being operated by legal and illegal CD distributors) to shops and other services (gift shops, restaurants, technical support services, and ...). There is also room for volunteered changes in land-use of certain buildings towards new land-uses. Therefore, the construction of the Baladiyeh building alone is a step forward in the promotion of ongoing occupations and the introduction of new occupations, which are considered some of the positive outcomes of the project.
However, one must not forget the other side of the coin. The restoration of the former Baladiyeh building and changing the ultimate function of the square to a cultural one is subject to the elimination or reduction of some ongoing commercial uses. A case in point is the owners of small businesses located behind the municipality building who are concerned about drops in the value of their properties due to no longer being considered as part of the square. Many new land owners claim that this would be an unanticipated financial loss. Street vendors also share the same concerns with these business owners and are worried that even if they are allowed to work behind the municipality building, they will consequently face a reduction in the number of customers. Of course, one can never come to an absolute conclusion about all the street vendors, especially considering that some sell products that are already being sold in the surrounding shops and therefore create an unfair market. The general concern of street vendors, the majority of whom are either illiterate or of low literacy and cannot find suitable jobs in unofficial fields, is that they feel that they will be completely neglected following the implementation of the project.
Economic and social inequality: although the construction of the new Baladiyeh building and the demands of the visiting population will indeed create new facilities in the area, however, given the different interests of the stakeholders, these new infrastructures will not necessarily be to the benefit of livelihood and welfare of the stakeholders. Meanwhile, the residents of the area already suffer from lack of essential spaces for drug-stores, businesses, clean restaurants with standard prices, areas for sports-related activities such as bodybuilding clubs or training classes. The operating transporters and street vendors in the area have also requested for canopies, benches and water fountains. The tourists also asked for more traditional hotels, luxurious restaurants that serve local and international foods, cultural spaces such as car-museums and ... . The main risk to most leisure and tourist-friendly environment is the threat of becoming one-dimensional and the loss of spatial variety, which in most cases is the result of the economic hierarchy of power which acts in the advantage of the visiting groups and the disadvantage of the hosts. This in turn dismantles the dynamism of an area and in the best case scenario transforms it into a museum. If the reconstruction and restoration of the Baladiyeh building as a new multi-functional complex is to be in the benefit of the public, it must first seek to satisfy the needs of its main stakeholders and secondly be delegated to the governmental or public sector of urban economy and in no respect be assigned to the private sector, so as to ensure that the profits are put to good use.
Urban landscape: generally, the demands and perception of the public tend to be in total contrast to the opinion of expert designers. In cases where the public seek to restore their mental image of a previously built monument and emphasize on finding similarities between the former and the latter (the image and the original), experts believe that the accurate reconstruction of the building to its original state would be a sham and focus on using it as inspiration. However, when looking through a global perspective, we see many instances of historical buildings restored to their original form with psychological and anthropological justifications. In the case of the Baladiyeh building, it is most critical that the building is public-driven, given that it is to become the city hall. Neglecting public opinion in this case would indeed bring about negative consequences. Furthermore, the restoration of the Baladiyeh building could encourage other business owners to restore their own buildings.
Social conflicts: perhaps the most serious of conflicts that may come about after the construction of the new Baladiyeh building is the conflict between owners of businesses behind the municipality building and the municipality itself. Another potential conflict of the project relates to the tendency of street vendors to gather in front of the Baladiyeh building, which if not considered properly, would add to the ongoing commotion of the area and hinder the appearance of the building. There is also the chance that certain clashesmay occur between the street vendors themselves as well as between street vendors and official custodians. Since the construction of the new Baladiyeh building would completely alter the manner of pedestrian commute in conjunction with the existing shades from canopies (requested by street vendors), it would also affect the position of street vendors within the square. Another potential dispute between the current environment of the square and the stakeholders of the new building, which lies on a much larger-scale, is the conflict of goods and services requested by the new cultural audience and the ones requested by the previous commercial audience. Each opposing body would then seek to employ their own strategies and distinct requests. Pierre Bourdieu, the contemporary French sociologist argues in this regard that this issue is in a larger sense the issue of differences between investments in culture and economy; investments which at times are in contrast to each other. This difference is also sensed in the case of Toopkhaneh Square, between the square itself and its surrounding environment, which has in a way become a battlefield for the skirmish between these two fields of investment. This, perhaps is the most serious challenge of the Toopkhaneh project on a large-scale, which demands certain policies for periodical control over its feedbacks. Another potential conflict which would be intensified with the implementation of the project is the conflict between the cultural audience and the previous nocturnal audience (the homeless and the junkies). This however does not seem to pose a major problem given the inferiority of the latter group and the fact that they are fugitives of the law, and it is predicted that these individuals will eventually move towards the inner regions of the project area or the immediate environment. However, the conflict does indeed exist from the onset of the project and must therefore be considered as regards policy making.
Population and demographic composition: taking into account the fact that changes in the commercial land-use of the area are to be kept to a minimum, it does not seem that a major change will occur in the number of business owners and customers. On the other hand, given the cultural characteristic of the new Baladiyeh building, it is predicted that a new population will want to enter the area, provided that the project is implemented successfully. This would cause both an increase in population and changes in the demographic composition of the area from only including business owners or transporters to a combination of business owners, transporter, and cultural audiences and visitors. The new audience is of a higher cultural level (including education, language, etc.) and will most definitely extend to the female population as well. However, if the Baladiyeh project and other similar projects regarding the promotion of the area were to succeed, the current commercial function of the square would gradually begin to fade, resulting in the consequent decrease and balancing out of the commercial stakeholders.
Leisure and recreation: seeing that the function of the new Baladiyeh building is chiefly inclusive of leisure and recreational uses such as cinemas, coffee shops, galleries, museums, and ..., it will most definitely increase the cultural usage of the building. According to conducted surveys, cinemas were ranked first among suggested uses for the building with a total of 95 votes in favor of cinemas. Next in the list of suggested uses for the building were educational classes (87 votes), shopping center (70 votes), museum (65 votes), study hall and library (37 votes), and conference hall (36 votes). In other words, the successful implementation of the Baladiyeh restoration project can also restore the recreational quality of the area and in a way introduce a new sense of recreation. It can also encourage other types of leisure and recreational activities about the square.
Social damages: not only does there appear to be no indications of any social damage caused by the project, at least at this phase, but it is also expected that the rate of current social damages in the area including harassment of women and girls, presence of street junkies and the homeless, and ... will be ameliorated upon the successful implementation of the project. However, the current state of operation of illegal drug dealers in the vicinity of Naserkhosro Street, who commonly sell narcotics and psychedelic drugs, in conjunction with the fact that the main audience of the new building is inclusive mainly of students and other cultural communities, who have a higher tendency to drugs compared to other social strata, may lead to alarming consequences as well as certain social damages.
Prices of real-estate, services, and goods: currently, the prices and frequency of residential estates are extremely low, whereas the prices for commercial spaces and shops are extremely high (10 times the prices of residential estates). However prices of residential estates and other related services are expected to increase due to escalations in the social and physical quality of the area following the implementation of the project and its corresponding objectives. Changes in commercial estate, on the other hand, may vary depending on the type of product sold and location of the estate. For instance, prices of estates in Lalehzar Street and Ferdowsi Street (that run north to south) are likely to follow varying patterns of change. The dense and private commercial uses in Lalehzar Street will most definitely undergo changes dissimilar to those of the units in Ferdowsi Street which tend to be more administrative (e.g. banks, consulates, and ...).
Citizen’s satisfaction: David Harvey, the British anthropologist, states in accordance with the words of Henri Lefebvre, the famous French philosopher and theorist, the concept of “right to the city” and argues: “The right to the city is, therefore, far more than a right of individual access to the resources that the city embodies: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city more after our heart’s desire. It is, moreover, a collective rather than an individual right since changing the city inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power over the process of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake ourselves and our cities is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights” (Harvey, 2012: 1), and so, according to the conducted surveys, 76% of the study population agreed with the notion that “if the historical buildings of the area were to be restored, the overall value and prices would indeed go up”. Additionally, about 60% of the study population directly stated their compliance with the restoration of the old Baladiyeh building, meanwhile 39% agreed that the project would bring economic prosperity. Albeit, there were certain concerns about escalations in traffic and pollution, which must be duly considered. Other measures must also be taken into account so that the opposing bodies will not in any way be damaged by the implementation of the project and feel more inclined to connect with it.
The primary issue of the Imam Khomeini quality improvement initiative, which amongst its agendas is the restoration of the Baladiyeh building, is the confrontation between two opposing sides, one being the current private and economic identity and the other the future public and cultural identity. Exactly how one could in practicality change the Toopkhaneh Square, and in a more general sense the entire 12th district of Tehran, from its ongoing state of commercial dominance to becoming the cultural and historical center of Tehran is a matter of great sensitivity, which requires large-scale manipulations in the management of the area, or put another way, requires that cultural investments gain a more powerful standing over current commercial ones. This, is in fact, the very same idea of changing the stakeholders from mere members of an urban environment to true citizens, which of course demands a new approach on how to communicate with the environment; one that is in contrast with the present profit-driven perspective that dominates the area. In order to achieve this goal, certain modifications must be made in the large-scale policies of the area including the manner and order by which various spaces in the new building will function (with respect to the needs of its new cultural audience). Another effective measure would be to design a research center and a private library with a focus on old Tehran. It is also recommended that the new museum would be designed in such a way that it encourages visitors to take a few minutes of their time to stop and take a stroll in the museum. The “Little Paris (Le Petit Paris)” project would be a great inspiration in this regard; the project contains miniature versions (130 times smaller) of 40 historical relics from Paris placed in order of history.
In addition to directions on interior design, it is also important that the current limited and one-dimensional view of the region be changed into a more comprehensive and systematic one. This is a highly significant issue in social studies, which defend that every phenomena sets to find a meaning for itself. Accepting the importance of finding the correct setting for the new Baladiyeh building and its role in associating a common connotation between the stakeholders (the building and the audience) requires large-scale planning. The setting here seems to be divided into three categories of “marginal areas of Baladiyeh”, the “square area”, and the “12th district”, which are explained briefly in the following.
One factor which must be taken into account about the “marginal areas of Baladiyeh” is the buildings’ ability to interact with its surrounding area from all 4 sides. It is therefore recommended that the posterior walls of the building be removed or replaced with glass facades and certain functions be considered for the marginal regions as well. The historical background of the square could also be put to good use in the “square area” to indtroduce leisure activities such as taking photos with a historical theme, holding various ceremonies such as street performances or live music performances, street art exhibitions, etc. The most important precondition to the “12th district” is a coordinated and central management, which falls outside the boundaries of this study.
Of all subjects of discussion in this study, the following recommendations are found to be reliable:
Importance of “time” in organization and design of the environment: taking a look at most developed countries, we see a different classifications of time. For example, in the case of France, office hours tend to be between 9 am to 5 pm, while cultural facilities start working from 12 pm to 9 pm. “white night” is a term used in reference to the interminable (around-the-clock) use of certain spaces. Accordingly, Tehran Municipality could also introduce new time policies in order to manage the new Baladiyeh building in the form of a “city hall”; the most people-oriented symbol of the city.
Importance of resolving issues of public lavatories: public lodging (staying in a public space for a specified amount of time) and lingering are acts that require many prerequisites including security, services, desirability, furniture, illumination, shade, and ..., amongst which lavatories are one of the most important. Accordingly, the future success of the new Baladiyeh building is also conditioned on such banal, yet crucial accounts. Experiences of Turkey regarding this matter are highly applicable and considerable.
Importance of a complementary project for restoring dynamism to the area behind the municipality building: it is recommended that a northern gate also be designed for the new Baladiyeh building and the northern wall be removed and replaced with a more dynamic and social space. The northern wing of the Baladiyeh building could create a great setting for the organization of certain services including supermarkets and restaurants.
Importance of organizing street vendors: the marginal regions of the square, including the northern wing which encompasses the Baladiyeh building, could be used by street vendors in order to add to the social dynamism of the square, provided that organizational measures are taken into account. Keeping this strategy in our peripheral vision is in most cases better than erasing the question or reacting assertively.
Importance of prioritizing the needs of the main stakeholders in the square and redefining the function of the Baladiyeh building: the tourism industry as well as the tourists themselves must at all times be at the service of the stakeholders in the region. The foremost stakeholders who have the greatest role in the local stability of the region are the residents, shopkeepers, and land and property owners or other highly attached bodies in the region. Accordingly, the outlook on how different groups will benefit from the project must start from the most inner parts of the region and move outwards.
Importance of careful design and restoration of the Baladiyeh building: In contrast to the thinking of architects who believe that the building should be a modern product of urbanity, anthropologists believe that the new Building should be an exact replica of the former building since it reminisces of past memories and times past. Many instances of such restorative measures aiming at reactivating the memories of the people have been implemented in different countries (e.g. Kazan Cathedral, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow, and ...)
Importance of establishing uses and functions relating to children: one of the prerequisites for the presence of families in the building is to consider the needs of the family and the children. Neglecting such needs would amount to losing certain audiences. Among effective functions recommended for engaging children include play grounds, educational programs, recreational activities, kindergartens, lavatories, and ...
Importance of establishing markets around the building for the self-employed: one of the main threats of the new Baladiyeh building is the increase in service prices, which in turn can lead to a sense of inequality. It is therefore highly important that various qualities of the buildings are taken into account. In the special case of the self-employed, it is recommended that the management of the Baladiyeh building or its surrounding booths be delegated to the public.
Importance of assigning the management of the Baladiyeh building to only the governmental sector: what must be taken into account about the Baladiyeh restoration project is that it must not in any way be driven by economic impulses. Given the long-term prospects of the project regarding urban interests, proceedings should be undertaken for the presence of individuals who do not have access to financial resources.
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