Stationary Vehicles, Passing Pedestrians
(Imam Khomeini Square Quality-Improvement Project, Tehran, Iran)
Dr. Fardin Alikhah
Abbas Mohammadi Shakiba
The Imam-Khomeini Square quality improvement project seeks to upgrade the locality into a tourist attraction and is part of Tehran Municipality’s agenda for historical-led regeneration of the city. The project proposes the construction of a new building (“City Hall”) to replace the former worn out municipality at the northern part of the square. The new building is to have a cultural function so as to both create a change in the spatial atmosphere of the square and pose as a sort of tourist attraction by joining notable cultural heritages in the vicinity. A combination of qualitative (documentary studies, qualitative researches such as observations, interviews, etc.) and quantitative (e.g. surveys) approaches were employed for evaluating the social impacts of the project with respect to certain criteria including project features, number of institutional beneficiaries (managers and officials, municipalities, banks, Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran, etc.), and public beneficiaries (business owners, pedestrians, vendors, employees, transporters, etc.). The results stipulated that all included beneficiaries had not in fact received adequate, precise, and appropriate information and only based their opinions on what they had heard or seen. The majority of business owners took on a positive perspective towards improving the overall state of business, whereas some of the beneficiaries, such as vendors and motorcyclists, showed concerns in this regard. According to the beneficiaries, the main requirements of the location are: more green spaces; restoration of roadbeds; increased security of shops; establishing safety during off-work times; resolving issues of traffic and parking space; advertising; improved environmental health; incarceration of street-junkies; improved amenities (drinking fountains, lavatories, pedestrian seats, etc.); and expediting building constructions. Ultimately, the project’s social research team have proposed guidelines on how to enhance social vitality in the study region considering the identified issues.
Keywords: city-square, social life, public spaces, city
Imam-Khomeini square (also known as “Toop-Khaneh”, literally translated: artillery barracks) is one of Tehran’s most memorable sites located within the central districts of the city. The square, known as the gate to the commercial center of Tehran, attracts several passengers and travelers visiting the traditional Bazaar and other cultural heritages on a daily basis. Being in the vicinity of Tehran Metro Line 1 and 2 as well as the square’s adjacency to both the museums at The National Garden, formerly known as Parade Square (Meydan-e Mashq), and Golestan Palace have made it an important hub for attracting tourists, not to mention the fact that it is located at one end of Sepah street, a significantly important thoroughfare in Tehran. An added benefit to the historical appeal of the square is the existence of the first modern municipality of Tehran at its northern exit. The square also enjoys a reverberating boom due to its position as the main communication node of the city, connecting routes to various services and recreations (Amood Architecture Group Report, 2012:1)
In the past, the square was the primary location for holding official ceremonies and where troopers would ride their horses with great tranquility around the area alongside pedestrians, adding to the vitality of the square. However, the square is now only looked at as a terminal for transportation and commute to the Grand Bazaar. Owing to the existence of numerous terminals and the Imam-Khomeini Metro Station (the most crowded of all stations in Tehran), the square faces a large volume of traffic (both people and vehicles) on a daily basis, which further highlights the need for a more organized approach to the management of this location (Amood Architecture Group Report, 2012:4).
Moreover, since the dominant usage of the area is commercial (mostly related to the Bazaar), most activities in the region are diurnal. Therefore, night-life of the region is indolent and security dwindles as day turns to night. In fact, the rate of putrefaction, contraband, and degeneration have escalated as the result of the governed sense of insecurity during the nights, putting forth an obscene visage of the cultural-historical center of Tehran (Amood Architecture Group Report 2012:1).
Currently, the environment surrounding the square experiences a high volume of traffic from commercial businesses as well as visitors or other individuals from different strata of the city and even the country, creating a rather haphazard situation. These unrelated commercial pathways, which seem to increase every day and have nothing to do with the cultural and historical nature of the square, have extended into the internal sectors of the architectural texture of the region, gradually altering the land-usage from residential to commercial (e.g. storages). This of course has caused a decline in the number of residents in the area approaching the total disappearance of inhabitants. In fact, many intact and new residential buildings have been transformed, as the result of this extension, into storehouses, which in turn has depleted the internal sectors of the region from inhabitants and all residential activities.
All of the issues mentioned, including vicinity to the most crowded metro station and being located in the cultural-historical center of the city alongside the potential role of the square as a memorable beacon of times past, have highlighted the need for certain organizational measures, especially given the unfortunate and unattractive visage of its present state. The initial steps of the proposed plan seek to revive the historical aspects of the square as well as to grant it a new identity with the ultimate objective of providing a secure, vibrant, and responsive urban environment.
According to studies by the Land and Space Affairs Organization on the study area and its immediate surroundings as well as the indirect land-use of the area, the daily retreat in residential activities has been to the benefit of commercial and depository enterprises. The ever-increasing growth of such activities, in conjunction with the lack of attention towards organizational procedures has further added to the turmoil, thereby threatening the historical and physical identity of the square. The demolition of the former municipality building (at the northern sector of the square) and its transformation into a taxi-station has not only introduced commercial activities to the direct land-use and the main infrastructure, but has also amplified the ongoing commotion. This state of disarray caused by commercial activities has in turn extended further beyond the main pathways, reaching the passage backdrops. In return, dwelling further into the internal sectors of the corresponding urban texture, the number of storehouses increase while residential use diminishes significantly. Furthermore, lack of supervision over a region can cause a remarkable decrease in the region’s security, eradicating any sense of safety among inhabitants. It seems that the surrounding environments of the square have become victim to the profit of numerous commercial corporations, without even the slightest care for residential living and quality of life (Amood Architectural Group socio-cultural report, first edition, 2013:30
The objective of the Imam Khomeini Square Quality Improvement Project is to create the appropriate environment for the vital presence of citizens and tourists by means of satisfying prerequisites relating to services and facilities, culture, history, and social affairs and by developing a fundamental center for acknowledging the culture-historical center of Tehran (with 8 thousand years of residency). Table 1 gives a brief analysis of the former, current, and future state of Imam Khomeini Square.
Table 1. Former, current, and future state of Imam Khomeini Square
2. Relevance and Significance of Evaluating Social Impacts of the Project
Social impact assessment (SIA) practitioners are the custodians of local knowledge, responsible for both distributing and providing access to local information among others (Annelies Stolp, 2009:307). Correct assessments can help societies, or rather, responsive communities and institutions in their plans to confront certain social changes resulting from calculated proceedings or provide access to specific information relating to the main causes and motivations behind the implementation of a project, rather than the implementation itself. Citizens living in responsive regions are aware of their living conditions and surroundings. Social impact assessment using local knowledge and by means of identification and participation of impressible populations can increase the cost-effectiveness of such procedures (Burdge et al. 2012: 131)
The principles of social impact assessment are built upon the notion that:
All decision makers must be aware of the consequences of their decisions prior to making them and individuals on the impressible side must not only be informed of the effects of an act, but also be given the opportunity to participate in forming their own futures (Burdge et al., 2012:170)
The objectives of this social impact assessment project include:
• Participatory endeavors towards creating more stable and reliable policies, projects, and programs by means of ensuring conformance between the options presented and service recipients and other embodied individuals;
• Reliability and quality assurance of projects by virtue of increasing supports and adjusting organizational plans with the local culture;
• Incorporating larger and more diverse communities, as companions to the beneficiaries, for the expansion of policies, projects, and programs.
• Social impact assessment and the manner with certain policies and plans could cause changes in lifestyle-human environments (Burdge and Coulter, 2012:210)
Social impact assessment could as well be associated thrifts in financial costs and time. These economizing activities are chiefly carried out in three ways:
• Feasibility study of a procedure (construction): overlooking social impacts causes future executives to assign a much higher amount of time to deal with issues resulting from undesirable predicaments.
• Devising well-organized solutions: social impact assessment is a step toward modifying and promoting current solutions by means of procuring required data for the implementation and maintenance of solutions to various challenges as well as by discerning societal infrastructures essential to dealing with large-scale changes and thereby increasing “return on investment” for the corresponding courses of action.
• Refraining from unsought consequences: in the absence of social impact assessment, consequences of numerous social actions would fail to come to light until a fair amount of time after decisions have been made and policies carried out, at a time when practically nothing can be done to change or ameliorate the unwanted effects (Burdge and Coulter, 2012:213)
1-2 Objectives of Social Impact Assessment
Becker and Vanclay are of the opinion that a suitable social impact assessment should be carried out in the order that follows:
• Identifying beneficiaries and those affected by the project;
• Facilitating and coordinating participation of “individuals and beneficiaries”;
• Historical analysis and documentation of the locality where the project will take place; so as to be able to interpret eventual reactions to the implementation of the project and estimate its cumulative effects;
• The implementation of a proper social assessment, well capable of providing a rich depiction of the local culture as well as elevating one’s knowledge of the social values and norms of the area, particularly in regards to their potential relation with the interventions planned;
• Identification and interpretation of potentially effective actions (determining the impact scope);
• Predicting probable impacts and reactions of different social strata;
• Assisting the estimation and selection of feasible options for the project (including but not limited to repeal of the development plan);
• Obliging in the selection of the location where the project will take place;
• Recommendation of restorative actions;
• Advocating reparative works;
• Elucidating potential conflicts between individuals and beneficiaries and putting forth solutions;
• Codification of strategies for alleviating societal problems in order to lessen remaining impacts or those of an irreparable nature;
• Aiding in the development of proficiencies and talents as well as enlarging social capacities;
• Submitting proposals for organizational rules and regulations as well as recommending methods for the coordination of stakeholders;
• Succoring the design of tools and the implementation of supervisory and managerial plans;
• Collecting fundamental data (profiling) for the evaluation and auditing of procedures for estimating consequences as well as the project itself (Vanclay, 2009:27).
3. Study Objectives
As summarized by the corresponding social study team for this research, the present study seeks in accordance with the principals proposed by Becker and Vanclay, to:
• Identify and apprehend the social scope of the project: it is evident that the contractors, due to being constantly present at the project site, have proper knowledge of the project environment. The project’s social study team will give clear explanations of the social environment as well as propose solutions to resolving ongoing problems and conflicts according to governing features.
• Predicting reactions and potential social conflicts of the project: one of the significant outcomes of the social impact assessment report is to predict potential reactions of various social strata to the project.
• Large-scale social impacts of the project in the study region and the greater area: the social study team will make endeavors to identify potential social impacts within the study region as well as the greater area. Certain probable interruptions in the project’s course will also be investigated due to these impacts.
• Guidelines for resolving problems and conflicts in the implementation of the project: the major contribution of the social study team will be to investigate social guidelines for resolving relevant problems.
4- Current views on urban public spaces
The historical backdrop to Tehran’s ToopKhaneh square (Maidan-e-Toopkhaneh) is quite interesting. According to documentations, the first motor vehicles of the Qajar era could only be operated in this square, due to its suitable steering space (Hooshangi, 2012:28). After several decades, the number of vechicles increased by dramatic amounts, not only in this square, but throughout Tehran, making it seem as if the city’s sole purpose was to serve these vehicles. The calamity has unfortunately expanded to current times when the city has indeed become a function of pathways and streets, which are found everywhere. According to Lefebvre (1993:50 quoted from: England, 2012:107), the prevalent rationality of geometrically ordered space in conjunction with road systems and other areas designed for the commutation of automobiles in societies today, have engendered a state of car dominance, in which the sole purpose of public spaces is to satisfy the needs of traffic, rather than fulfilling the needs of the public such as the urge to take a walk or a breath of fresh air. Many experts of social studies have warned of the dangers of the dominance of automobiles over human life. They believe that automobiles have become such a prevalent factor of human life that we tend to forget the constant impact they may have on our lives. Henri Lefebvre proposes a very intriguing report about the effects of automobiles on the daily life of humans. The general idea, as believed by Lefebvre, is that the daily life of humans is highly contingent upon the invasion of cars, the effects of which are often neglected due to certain incapacitations. Lefebvre argues that automobiles and the accompanied by-products such as asphalt roads and highways have to a large extent influenced modern urban living conditions, resulting in highly rationalized amendments. According to Lefebvre, modern cities are chiefly characterized by a proliferation of wide roads and parking spaces. The outcome of such extensions is a reduction in the number of tree-covered roads and green spaces (Lefebvre 1993:359 quoted from: England, 2012:106). In other means, Lefebvre believes that traffic has become a common land-use in modern societies. Under contemporary social conditions, ‘traffic circulation has come to be one of the main functions of a society and, as such, involves the priority of parking spaces ... streets and roadways’ over all other considerations ‘it is almost as though automobiles and motorways occupied the entirety of space’. As noted by Lefebvre, automobiles have taken over the daily lives of humans; imposing their own laws. A large portion of the life of the modern human is accompanied by the sounds of running engines (1971 :101 quoted from: England, 2012:106).
Lefebvre proposes the question: “What are the impacts of such a state?” and answers with the notion that our experiences of the space have become highly contracted. Within such urban conditions, argues Lefebvre, the car driver’s experience of city space loses the richness and multi-dimensionality open to the stroller, for it is characterized by the deadening rationality of geometrically ordered space. As noted by Lefebvre (1993 :313 quoted from England, 2012:108):
“... the driver is concerned only with steering himself to his destination, and in looking about sees only what he needs to for that purpose; he thus perceives only his route, which has been ... mechanized and technicized, and he sees it from one angle only – that of its functionality: speed, readability, facility [and so on] ... [Thus] space appears solely in its reduced forms. Volume leaves the field to surface, and any overall view surrenders to visual signals spaced out along fixed trajectories already laid down in the plan” (England, 2012:108). Lefebvre regards that prior to anything, cars privatize people’s movements, wrapping them in small bubbles far off from others. Motrized traffic enables people and objects to congregate and mix without meeting, thus constituting a striking example of simultaneity without exchange, each element enclosed to its own compartment, tucked away in its shell; such conditions contribute to the disintegration of city life and foster a ... ‘psychosis’ that is peculiar to motorists (1993 : 101 quoted from: England, 2012:101)
The notion of being enclosed to compartments and being tucked away in its shell which contributes to the disintegration of city life is worth contemplating over. The circumstances becomes far more severe when the target of social analyses switches from European countries towards countries such as Iran, since then there rises the additional crisis of air and noise pollution. Adding motorcyclists to the list makes the situation far direr. The Toopkhaneh square in Tehran is amongst areas which have lost their vitality. The square has in fact downgraded to a traffic node, which in the best case scenario is used by civilians as a port to Theran Bazaar or a location for the buying and selling of audio-visual systems or the transportation of subway wagons. All these activities take place without generating even the slightest memory of the square, which once flourished with memorable experiences.
Jan Gehl states that activities take place more often in spaces with prior experience of activity, whereas unexperienced locations tend not to attract any further activity. Gehl coins 3 categories of human activities in public spaces:
1. Necessary/functional activities;
2. Optional/recreational activities;
3. Social activities
Necessary actions primarily involve domestic actions relating to the satisfaction of human needs, which are of an obligatory nature. Most daily activities of civilians such as buying various goods, attending school or work or visiting doctors, and waiting for the bus to arrive fall within the category of necessary actions. On the other hand, activities carried out or participated in according to personal desires are rendered as optional activities. Such activities, including taking short walks or entertaining younger children, are commonly carried out individually or in groups, however they are not mandatory. Finally, activities which require the existence and participation of other civilians, and which cannot be done otherwise, are categorized as social activities. Examples of such activities include street gatherings, seeing other civilians and hearing them out, active and inactive participation in social associations, etc. Rather than being necessary, social activities are generally optional in nature, however, they do require the participation of a group of people. In other words the motivator for action is the volition of the group (Pakzad, 2008: 436)
Gehl argues that necessary actions are carried out regardless of the quality of the physical environment, albeit a suitable urban environment with good urban environment quality could indeed provide a suitable platform for the undertaking of such actions. Optional activities, however, are to a large extent contingent upon the environment and what it has to offer and the manner in which it provokes the demeanor and sentiments of the individual. The higher the quality of an environment, the greater the extent of optional activities.
According to Gehl, social activities hinge on the “quality” and the “duration” of the first two types of activities; since social activities will only take place if an adequately large number of people are able to meet in a specific location. The quality of the environment, prior to acting as the instigating agent for action, provides the pre-requisites for its undertaking. By other means, under such conditions, the primary motivator for action is the presence of civilians themselves, whereas it falls upon the environment to provide the required environment (Pakzad, 2008:437)
On these grounds Gehl states that a city for the people, is a city that is alive. Gehl regards that public spaces in cities and residential areas will only find significance and appeal if a variety of combined actions were to take place and feed on each other.
The objective of reviewing Gehl’s theories in this part of the study is to explain the current one-dimensional usage of the Toopkhaneh square in Tehran. In other words, out of the three different types of action introduced by Gehl, the actions which dominate the square fall in the category of necessary.
All of the said issues regarding the Toopkhaneh square of Tehran have led to the proposal of a quality improvement project for the development of the square. As stated earlier, the main objective of this project is to revive the social vitality of the square and transform from a transportation port into a hub for leisure and recreational activities. It should however be noted that plans of such nature, which deal with various social groups, are virtually impossible to implement without proper social annexes. Social impact assessment will indeed provide an answer to the requirements of such projects.
5- Research method
The procedures and techniques used for gathering and analyzing information for this social impact assessment include:
• Document analysis
• Surveys (amongst citizens of Tehran and Tourists visiting the 12th district of Tehran)
A series of information sharing meetings were also held amongst the employer and the project designer, so as to share and make use of their opinions.
Innovation meetings were also held among the executives and researchers of the project in order to debate over the project status as well as deficiencies and issues at hand, which would then be taken into account until later meetings.
6- Results of social impact assessment
6-1 Field interviews
Several of the stakeholders of the City Hall (Teatr-e-shahr) project were interviewed in order to gain exclusive opinions about the project. The interviewees included:
1. Owners of businesses located to the north of the square, primarily in the business of buying and selling audio-visual systems and computer accessories and games; 2. Business owners located at one end of Ferdowsi Street; 3. Owners of businesses located at one of Lalezar Street; 4. A number of vendors working at the northern sector of the square; 5. Employees of administrative offices around the square; 6. Operatives of stores and shops located on Bab-e-Homayoun Street (transit to Old Tehran); 7. Bystanders 8. Employed motorcyclists; 9. Taxi drivers. The following lists some of the most significant findings from interviews:
Table 2. Most significant findings from interviews
Scope of question Explanation
Status (opinions of all stakeholders) During the interviews it became evident that the stakeholders had not received adequate information about the project, with the little information they had coming from what they had seen or heard. Albeit informing involved parties is amongst primary steps of any project, some of the reasons for a lack of coherent notices include:
Not feeling the need for giving notice;
Weaknesses in Tehran Municipality’s notification system;
Possibility of conflicts in case of notifications about the project.
The impact of inaugurating the City Hall building on business (opinions of business owners) Real-estate market shift: various opinions were put forth in this regard, hinting at the existence of certain ambiguities. In other words, market shifts were either unpredictable or reliant on other circumstances.
Customer count: most were of the opinion that the number of customers had increased.
Commute of business owners and transportation of cargo: similar to opinions about prices, various opinions were proposed in regards to transportation and commute, ranging from optimistic (easier transportation) to pessimistic, neutral, and conditional.
Business prosperity (opinions of business owners and related occupations) The majority of business owners took on a positive perspective towards business, with some concerns on part of vendors and motorcyclists.
Compliance or non-compliance with the City Hall project (opinions of all stakeholders) The greater number of stakeholders showed no objections to the construction of the City Hall building, with some compliant towards the notion, and a few seeing it as ineffective. However, during the exploitation of the square, the majority of involved parties were pessimistic.
Each party proposed their own reasons for why they had agreed or disagreed with the implementation of the project, which can be found in the initial report.
Efficiency of constructing a cultural space at the square (opinions of all stakeholders)
The majority of interviewees agreed with the second option below:
Reasons for not seeing the quality improvement as beneficial:
The area is not residential and requires facilities such as parking space. The dominant land-use of the area is commercial and would be suitable as a repose for business owners. The reconstruction of the square would have no significant effects. Despite being in agreement with the construction of a cultural space, the interviewees believed that a thing destroyed will remain destroyed, the area has lost its cultural aspect and preventive measure should’ve taken place much earlier.
Reasons for seeing the quality improvement project as beneficial:
The area is historic and could appeal to tourists; residency of the area is rather low, with the dominant land-use being commercial; construction of a cultural space would indeed improve the conditions of this commercial area; security would increase and the area would lose its male-driven nature; the project would be beneficial, provided that measures be taken in regards to parking space; the project is advantageous in that it could change the overall atmosphere and status of museums; the project would indeed change the function of the area so that women and children would feel safe (an frequent opinion of the interviewees); it will lead to the reconstruction of Lalezar Street, which is also a historical regions; transformation of the area into a cultural space would cause the withdrawal of street junkies and beggars as well as convicts, making the area suitable for family visits.
Requirements of the square (opinions of stakeholders, mostly owners of businesses at the northern sector of the square and surroundings) Green space; building façade and reconstruction of roadbeds; increasing shop security; increasing safety during off-hours; resolving issues of traffic and parking; advertisement; improving environmental health; preventing the operation of illegal drug vendors and street junkies; creating game and sports centers; incarcerating street junkies; improving amenities (drinking fountains, lavatories, benches, etc.); inauguration of the entrance to the metro station, which would improve business; preventing the operation of street vendors, which would lead to a cleaner environment; expediting constructional procedures; the area is worn-out and measures must be taken in regards to safety.
6-2 Survey results
The survey population included two groups of citizens (702 residents of different regions of Tehran and 402 tourists visiting the 12th district of Tehran). Part of the objectives of this survey included the investigation of recreational patterns and potential of the 12th district of Tehran in attracting tourists, particularly with regards to the study region and its historical buildings.
Main shortcomings of visited historical regions: the main shortcomings of historical places in the study region visited by tourists include inattention to the spaces (out-of-date buildings with risk of subversion and lack of both reconstruction and restorative measures) (22.8%) and weaknesses in public notification (17.7%).
Major advantages of visited historical regions: based on the opinion of interviewees, the main advantages of the historical places visited include: access to appropriate and calm environment (27.6%), antiquity and historical background of the area (14.2%), stunning Iranian architecture (10%), attendance to historical monuments (8.5%), and familiarization with Iranian history (8%).
Positive aspects of Tehran according to tourists: the main positive aspects of Tehran according to tourists which stand out amongst the rest include access to suitable amenities (27.4%), variety of tourist attractions (5.9%), existence of historical places (5.5%), being the capital city of Iran (5.2%), and antiquity and historical texture of the city (4.9%).
Degree of compliance of interviewees with reconstruction of historical places: a total of 71.6% of the study population were highly compliant with the reconstruction of historical places, with only 11.9% of the population in moderate compliance and 15.5% of low or very low compliance.
Degree of compliance with the construction of a city hall at Imam-Khomeini square: 60.9% of the interviewees highly agreed with the construction of a city hall at the square, while 8.5% were of a moderate agreement and 22.6% had a low or very low level of agreement
Overview: historical places in the 12th district of Tehran were favorably welcomed by the interviewed tourists, indicating the potentiality of the region in becoming a tourist attraction. The interviewed parties were in agreement with the reconstruction and restoration of the historical textures and monuments, especially Imam-Khomeini square and the construction of a city hall building. Factors including congestion, over-crowdedness, and parking space, traffic, and traffic restrictions were among main barriers against the attraction of tourist. Albeit, the 12th district of Tehran is potentially capable of becoming a tourist hub, provided that appropriate measures are undertaken.
6-2-2 Residents of Tehran
Main outdoor leisure activities: as indicated by survey results, visiting parks (80.6%), visiting religious shrines and cemeteries, particularly Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery (70.1%), visits to shopping malls and window-shopping (69.9%), taking strolls and short walks (69.9%), dining at restaurants (60.3%), and visiting recreational centers such as amusement parks (46.3%) are among the main outdoor leisure activities carried out by residents during holidays and weekends.
Furthermore, a maximum one quarter of the interviewed residents spent their leisure time visiting historical places of the city (25.8%), visiting museums (23.4%), and sightseeing in Tehran (17.2%). Most residents spent their afternoons (47.9%) and nights (21.8%) for leisure activities. 62.8% of the residents spent their leisure time with families, 15.4% alone, and 13.7% with friends.
Limitations to outdoor leisure activities: 57.7% of the interviewees spent their free time in the vicinity of their living quarters, with only 37.7% going outside their locality.
Priority of places for outdoor leisure activities: the results showed that 67.9% of the interviewed residents preferred to spent their free time doing recreational activities (including visiting parks, public gardens and amusement parks). Dining at restaurants (18.9%), visiting shopping centers (malls and shops) (14.2%), visiting cultural centers (cinemas and theatre halls) (18.2%), attending sports clubs (12.7%) were among other preferences mentioned by interviewees.
Visiting historical places: among historical places in Tehran, palaces were more frequently mentioned by interviewees as their preferred locations for sight-seeing with 49.3% in favor of Sa’ad Abad Palace, 41.8% preferring Niavaran Palace (both palaces located in district 1) , and 35.6% favoring Golestan Palace located in the 12th district (with each location visited at least once).
Interviewees had also visited one of the following locations at least once: Hassan Abad square (26.8%), National Garden of Tehran (18.6%), 30th Tir Street (16.1%), Abgineh museum (The Glassware and Ceramic Museum of Iran) (11.1%), Negarestan Garden (10%).
Attentiveness towards Tehran tourism and visiting old regions of the city: 65.1% of the interviewed parties highly or very highly agreed with visiting old regions of the city as well as historical monuments, 13.5% were in moderate agreement, and 20.9% showed low or very low agreement.
Awareness of the design and construction of the city hall building: 9.3% of interviewees were informed, indicating the following as their main source of information: personal visits, radio and television programs, notified by friends and neighbors, families or relatives, newspapers, and virtual media. 76.6% of the interviewees highly or very highly agreed that the city hall buildings would indeed be utilized by the public upon becoming operational.
Overview: the results of this study show that the residents of Tehran spend a significant amount of their leisure time outdoors. The results were also indicative of the important position of pedestrian sidewalks, street surfing, and city tourism, with room for further improvements. Amongst cultural buildings, the palaces and museums appeared to stand out the most, with other regions of the 12th district such as Hassan Abad Square, National Garden of Tehran, and 30th Tir Street visited on a relatively moderate basis. It seems that the reconstruction of the Imam Khomeini square could improve the tourism capabilities of the region.
7- Project impact management
Awareness of the design and construction of the city hall building: 9.3% of interviewees were informed, indicating the following as their main source of information: personal visits, radio and television programs, notified by friends and neighbors, families or relatives, newspapers, and virtual media. 76.6% of the interviewees highly or very highly agreed that the city hall buildings would indeed be utilized by the public upon becoming operational. 56.3% also stated that they themselves would make use of the city hall building.
The following is a summary of the findings of this study:
1. The most important issue in regards to the reconstruction of the Toopkhaneh square is the lack of an accurate notification system, such that with the exception of individuals who were directly responsible for the project’s implementation, all remaining stakeholders were not notified and were unaware of the future prospects of the square. The stakeholders had very limited information about the project, filled with all sorts of ambiguities and inaccuracies, causing them to form a negative view of the project.
2. Endeavors were undertaken by the interviewees to provide information about the city hall plan and complementary questions were investigated in between. According to the information provided, the required conditions for the reconstruction of the square and construction of the city hall building were not in fact unsuitable. Many individuals welcomed the notion of possible changes in the structure and function of the square at the hands of Tehran Municipality by mentioning two main reasons: cultural deficiencies of the region and a need for building more cultural centers at this historical region as well as high hopes for the presence of tourism and booming of businesses, especially considering that most business owners inveighed against the sluggish economy of the region and anticipated an improvement in business through tourism. Changes in land-use were also considered and accepted by a number of business owners, provided that certain conditions were met. It is worth noting that cultural-led changes in land-use are quite complex and call for certain pre-requisites and support from official bodies. Given that changes in land-use require profit-driven perspectives, long-term decisions could be made in this regard.
3. No signs of official objections or complaints were seen in the study, i.e. protests from business owners to corresponding authorities. The main reason for this is most likely the construction of the city hall building within the public space of the square.
4. Most individuals and stakeholders in the Imam-Khomeini quality improvement project posed certain expectations, mainly in terms of the evident and ongoing issues regarding the square, which have been mentioned earlier.
5. Certain stakeholders, including vendors and motorcyclists and taxi drivers showed concerns in regards to disruptions in their daily routines. For instance, vendors were concerned that if organizational procedures were to be undertaken about the square, they would lose their operational territory or taxi drivers would be forced to change location.
Accordingly, the following discusses solutions recommended by the social study team based on the requirements of stakeholders.
7-1 Recommendations for stakeholders (non-governmental)
Non-governmental stakeholders of the project extend to “all citizens of Tehran”, which fall in the inclusive category of the project. The majority of beneficiaries took on a positive perspective towards changes in the structure and function of the square. These members include public civilians, tourists, particularly those who visited the 12th district of Tehran, the middle strata who have recently paid special attention to outdoor activities, and civil and cultural activists. According to the results of this study, the general population as well as cultural and historical tourists were compliant with the project and despite the mention of certain issues, adopted a positive viewpoint on the project.
7-1-1 Civilians and tourists
Problem: unawareness or low apprehension of the Toopkhaneh Square project
Solution: The use of public media, social media, virtual campaigns, contests for best picture, video, or text, and publication and exchange of information, pictures, and videos content-sharing websites such as Aparat or Instagram as tools for presenting historical-cultural places. Branding historical places of Tehran by introducing memorials, slogans related to Toopkhaneh square, and environmental advertising.
Problem: access to historical buildings (obstacles in routing, means of transportation, and traffic)
Solution: providing public transportation services, such as buses or vans, to and from the square to other transportation hubs. Traffic control via trained police forces as a means for facilitating transportation. Organizing current means of transportation.
Problem: lack of amenities and urban furniture
Solution: design and application of suitable urban furniture for lounging, especially in consideration of the elder population, women, and children, beautification of urban furniture, training employees of historical buildings in regards to proper etiquette, giving guidance, and coordinating actions. Paying heed to health issues, cleanliness, and appeal of the square.
Solution: codification of an event-based annual calendar for visiting the square; organizing economic activities around and about the square; organizing the transportation of motor vehicles.
Problem: inattentiveness to historical and cultural buildings
Solution: financial support and allocation of subsidiary budgets for the attraction of beneficiaries as partners in the restoration and reconstruction of facades and parapets.
7-1-2 Business owners located at the northern sector of the square
Owners of businesses located to the northern sectors of the square also adopted a positive view towards the project. The main reasons for their compliance include current issues and upheavals about the square, sluggish business and lack of adequate facilities, one-dimensional function of the square. Business owners expect that a positive change will take place in business if the presence of tourists and other civilians were to become bolder. The pre-requisites for change in the square are primarily defined in relation to quality of life and include improved amenities, urban furniture; resolving issues of air pollution, more-disciplined atmosphere regarding street junkies and convicts, and prediction of more optimized means of transportation, facilitating local commute, creating more parking spaces, etc. Some, however, were not so optimistic towards change and mainly argued that urban changes are pointless and believed that the square was a place for business rather than culture. They preferred improved amenities over construction of cultural centers. Some were also concerned with increases in real-estate prices, owing to the fact that their shops were leased, and were of the opinion that the sluggish market would not be able to satisfy the financial demands of increased prices of real-estate.
These individuals were chiefly concerned with the following problems, for which solutions have been proposed.
Problem: unawareness or low apprehension of the Toopkhaneh Square project
Solution: compilation of information packages aiming to familiarize owners of business located at the northern sectors of the square with the details of the project; holding information sharing meetings for the justification of changes and hearing out the concerns of business owners as well as vindicating possible benefits of change for business owners, explaining issues related to social status, health, and security of the square after the reconstruction of the square.
Problem: dust and noise pollution from constructional operations as well as limited visibility
Solution: design and application of construction projects within confined areas in front of shops, use of various colors and designs and images on enclosures for representing future prospects of the square, sound insulation systems and dust repellents.
Problem: issues relating to business (lack of hygiene, low security, duality of activities between day and night, reduced safety, and masculinity of the area)
Solution: joint action with subsidiaries of Tehran Municipality for decreasing irregularities and environmental pollutions, codification of statutes for intersectoral collaboration and setting a memorandum for the provision of safety as well as the presence of various public strata within the project area, organizing transportation of motor-vehicles.
Problem: lack of measures for reassuring business owners of the economic efficiency of changing the square.
Solution: holding effective debate sessions with business owners, hearing out the concerns of business owners, allocation of subsidiary budgets, and encouraging long-term changes in the function of the square.
7-1-3 Vendors and street merchants
A number of working parties involved in the Toopkhaneh quality improvement project are vendors. These vendors commonly conduct their business on sidewalks located to the north of the square as well as near mall entrances and western and eastern sidewalks intersecting with the square. These businesses fall within the category of unofficial business and have been the target of protests from some official business owners. This specific group were likewise unaware of the future prospects of the square, but were indeed concerned about the state of their businesses upon the undertaking of the project. Most of the corresponding parties were reluctant to changes in the square. Although proceedings for the organization of these individuals fall within the jurisdiction of urban management authorities, the executive members of the organizational task force must not be concerned with the occupational state of the square; for they are not accountable. However, other measures could be taken in regards to vendors and street merchants. Considering the potentiality of the square for attracting tourists, these street vendors could in fact be part of the charm and appeal of the square. Organizational actions could be taken to allow for such businesses to continue, provided that these businesses are in line with cultural objectives of the square. In a way, they are given priority.
Problem: unawareness of future prospects of the square.
Solution: compilation of information packages aiming at familiarizing vendors and owners of small street business with the future prospects of the square.
Problem: concerns with losing their place of work
Solution: vindicating possible benefits of change for owners of such businesses as well as codifying certain rules and regulations for the organization of vendors operating at the square. Training, organizing, and designing models for the utilization and deployment of vendors for activities in line with the cultural objectives of the square as well as procuring suitable locations for the operation of vendors unable to work in the square area.
7-2 Suggestions for improving intersectoral collaboration
Reconstruction and restoration of the square requires the collaboration of different authorities so as to ensure a suitable organizational agenda.
• Coordination and compilation of a memorandum of understanding with police forces in order to:
o Ensure safety and establish order in the square;
o Expunge the square of various agents of disruption ;
o Ensure security during night hours;
o Procure the require environment for the presence of families, women, and children, as well as during cultural activities;
o Ensuring stable security during off hours;
o Allowing the operation of occupations only in line with the cultural objectives of the square.
• Coordination and compilation of a memorandum with traffic police in order to:
o Controlling traffic within the square and the connecting streets;
o Disciplined observance of traffic rules and regulations;
o Opening access ways to the square for facilitating the commute of tourists and visitors;
o Carrying out certain responsibilities of traffic police.
• Coordination and compilation of a memorandum of understanding with Telecommunication Infrastructure Company of Iran in order to:
o Collaborate with the company in the beautification of the façade of the telecommunications building or other similar measures;
o Set a memorandum with the company for the utilization of the southern sidewalk of the square which would encourage the operation of tourist attracting businesses (restaurants, cultural souvenirs, books, musical performances, etc.);
o Negotiate changes in the function of the telecommunications building
° Cooperation with subsidiaries of Tehran Municipality in order to:
o Increase parking spaces;
o Organize motorcyclists;
o Assist and support business owners in the beautification of facades and parapets;
o Pilot changes in the function of certain shops located to the north of the square and at the end of Lalehzar Street and Ferdowsi Street so as to be in line with the cultural atmosphere of the square;
o Install sign posts;
o Install banners as well as beautify the square by using paintings and designs related to the historical background of the square;
o Plan cultural activities as well as codify event calendars for the further attraction of tourists;
o Take preparatory measures for certain times of the year, weeks and days when tourist commute will most likely reach its peak;
o Collaborate between subsidiaries of Tehran Municipality and cultural bodies including Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the press, and Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization of Iran, in lines with intersectoral collaborations and other joint measures regarding culture, advertisement, notification, etc.;
o Collaborate with cultural centers affiliated to Tehran Municipality for the presentation and application of projects about the square;
o Expand green space around the square;
o Design urban furniture according to the historical background of the square;
o Create a more bio-friendly and community-driven environment
7-3 Summary of the social management plan
The following proposes certain measures for creating a more community-driven and bio-friendly atmosphere about Imam-Khomeini square. It appears that a more human-centered atmosphere would create the required platform for the implementation of cultural events within the city hall building as well as facilitate interaction with surrounding environments.
The long-term agenda for restoring social vitality about the square is as follows:
Table 3. future prospects, objectives, strategies, and plans for Imam Khomeini Square
Toopkhaneh Square as the tourist hub of Tehran Promoting socialization Improved notification systems Proposing the establishment of a strategic task force for the project
Enhanced intersectoral collaborations
Reinforcing social coherence Establishing a group facilitation council
Mobilized social groups
Forming a media group
Enhanced inclusiveness Encouraging urban outdoor activities
Compiling guidelines for collaborations with cultural and educational institutions for the representation of the square
Constant monitoring of changes in the square
Restoring and forming of a collective memory
Branding Toopkhaneh Square Compiling strategies for the attraction of community-oriented institutions to enhance the social vitality of the square
Heightened sense of space Plans for attracting Tehran tourism institutions in order to enhance social vitality and tourism about the square
Encouraging a systemic view of the square and its surrounding environment (avoiding a pointwise view)
Socialization of the square
The following motions were suggested for the socialization of the square:
Creating a more human-centered atmosphere. Changing the structure of the square so as to enable the amassment of people. Designing urban furniture with public convenience and comfort in mind (creating places for sitting, resting, waiting, eating, drinking, watching, etc.). Appreciating small businesses and kiosk sellers so as to encourage public interaction. Better approaches to notifying the public, bearing in mind that advertisements should in fact be carried out by the public themselves. Encouraging the public to share their experiences of visiting the square in social media such as Instagram. Keeping the environment clean. Encouraging the involvement of the local culture, products and occupations. Valuing a position for each and every Iranian culture, so that the public, from whichever culture they may hail from, could feel a sense of intimacy. Taking preparatory measures for the presence of all social strata. Illumination during night hours. Encouraging public visits during off-times.
Despite the cultural diversity present in the country and particularly in Tehran, as the capital of Iran, social coherence is considered extremely significant. The role of social capital is highlighted in regards to the formation and relations between social links as well as a sense of trust and respect towards each other, such that each Iranian citizen, despite various distinctions and conflicts of interests, should feel part of a shared identity, or rather a bigger whole called “we”. Toopkhaneh square could act as a symbol of this social coherence. Accordingly, certain strategies are worth considering:
Active involvement of women and children. Intersectoral collaborations for ensuring safety and an overall atmosphere of respect, especially during less crowded hours. Removing all agents of social pollution and social damage as well as anti-social groups seeking to cause disarray. Recognizing all sorts of lifestyles and allowing for the activity of various kinfolk. Introducing various types of handicrafts, cultural products, foods and other edible products to the square. Creating the required environment for the involvement of the elderly population and those with fond memories of the square, so that they may share their experiences. Representing the historical background of the square along with holding and renewing certain events for the promotion of a collective identity. Handing out brochures and pamphlets for scheduled events. Encouraging a sense of co-existence and mutual respect. Creating the grounds for teaching the social skills required for a bio-friendly environment. Advertising the square.
The Toopkhaneh square should be inclusive to all members of the society, rather than being designed with a specific social stratum in mind. In other words, each civilian should be able to feel a special affinity towards at least one aspect of the square. Certain recommendations in this regard include: allowing the reputation of the square be known throughout the country. Creating a slogan and symbol for the square, imprinted into people’s minds, so that they may feel an urge to visit the square and thereby enhance the mental pattern induced by the square. In other words, branding a prestigious and renowned image of the square (for example, visiting Palladium shopping center has nowadays become a symbol of luxurious and modern living), encouraging further visits. Endeavors should be made to give the square an overall sense of originality. The environment of the square should also be quite soothing to the soul, so that the people are able to relax and feel at ease after a long day of stressful events and tensions. The square should operate on an event-driven basis. Annual event calendars should be proposed. Hosting culture weeks (one week of cultural activities and exhibitions), Tehran week (one week of cultural activities and exhibitions related to Tehran), Khorasan week, Mazandaran week, Sanandaj week, and so forth (one week for every province in Iran). Transforming the square into a hangout for civilians. Promoting nightlife. Planning for holidays and weekends, especially New Years.
Collective memory and evocation
Historical places are evocative in nature and the Toopkhaneh square of Tehran is no exception to the law. Building facades, parapets, and urban furniture should be reminiscent of the past. By this token:
Historical information about the square should not only be published in the square’s environment, but also in books, brochures, billboards, radio broadcasts and television programs, and social media in various forms of images, videos, contests, and festivals. Individuals with photographic memories as well as other sorts of evocations about the square should be sought, found, and brought, or rather invited to the square to share their experiences. Distribution of a collection of books, images, movies, and other products related to the cultural objectives of the square. Active presence in social media including Telegram, Instagram, Aparat, etc. Purveying and selling of symbols and tokens of old Tehran (including key holders, figurines, pins, accessories, bags, notebooks) both at gift shops located in the square as well as through the internet. Performing and playing old musical pieces and songs related to the atmosphere of the square. Symbolizing and representing historical figures connected with the square.
Sense of space
In the past, the square was a place of living, with neighborhood relationships and collaboration added into the bargain. The local people were associated with each other and most significant events counting businesses, ceremonies, celebrations, and funerals took place in the locality. These actions would lead to stronger bonds between the locals, creating a sense of intimacy, space, and domesticity. This in turn highlighted the significance of the square. Back then, the sense of livelihood was still alive. Nowadays, certain measures must be undertaken so that people could feel an intimate sense of space, that “this is our place”. This would prevent any actions that may lead to damaging the square. By other means, each individual would feel somewhat responsible for the preservation of the square. Nowadays, when people visit 30th Tir Street, they feel a sense of space, and although a large number of people gather at the Palladium shopping center, they no longer feel that sense of space. To this end, the following suggestions are proposed:
Creating and collecting narratives of past lifestyles, places, interactions, behaviors, and qualities (including values of identity, establishing coherence and morality) in order to create a connection between the people and the square; reconstructing surrounding residential areas; the return of older and more renown individuals; slowing down operations; long-term reconstruction of buildings worthy of preservation; taking measures to encourage visitors of the square to also take a glance at surrounding streets and avenues with notable buildings; expanding the presence of the people in neighborhoods, avenues, and buildings surrounding the square.
Recommendations of the strategic committee for the Imam-Khomeini quality improvement project
According to the social study team, a strategic committee is among key undertakings required for the progress of the Imam-Khomeini quality improvement project. The committee is responsible for following up on the state of progress of the project and to propose solutions to possible problems during the implementation of the project. The following discusses in detail some of the responsibilities of the committee:
The Imam-Khomeini quality improvement project is a large-scale trans-regional project with numerous beneficiaries which requires collaborations with other entities and organizations. Thus, a strategic committee is deemed necessary for the facilitation and expedition of the project by means of assisting in decision makings and organizational activities as well as inter-organizational coordination. The objectives of this committee are as follows:
• Main objective: the main objective of the committee is to coordinate actions between various subsidiaries of Tehran Municipality as well as other related entities through the exchange of information regarding demands, problems, and solutions relating to the project so as to resolve all relevant issues and create a stabilized environment with well-balanced methods and patterns of utilization;
• Empirical objectives:
1. Exchanging information among relevant authoritative bodies and coordinating actions for resolving issues, deficiencies, and concerns of the said bodies as well as the management of expectations;
2. Reintroducing and prolonging urban vitality to the square in accordance with a set of pre-defined future prospects;
3. Cessation of incompatibilities and lack of coordination in executive and empirical actions of the stakeholders;
4. Measures for encountering unanticipated problems so as to increase robustness and improve progress;
• Responsibility: acting as custodians for the formation of the committee formation as well as holding meetings with the office of urban affairs and services with the collaboration of the office of technical and civil affairs of Tehran Municipality;
• Time: the elected bodies (elected by the highest ranking authorities) are to be in office for a period of 2 years, with status update meetings held once a month;
• The sessions will be coordinated and headed by a representative of the urban affairs office of Tehran Municipality
Candidate members are categorized as either permanent or temporary members based on the outcomes and topics of the sessions:
A) Permanent members:
1. Deputy of urban affairs and services (chairman of the council);
2. Deputy of technical and civil affairs of Tehran Municipality and the accompanied representative therein;
3. Deputy of architecture and urbanism of Tehran Municipality and the accompanied representative therein;
4. Deputy of transportation and traffic affairs of Tehran Municipality and accompanied representative;
5. CEO of Tehran Beautification Organization
6. CEO of Civil Organization of Tehran Municipality;
7. Provost of Municipality Office of 12th District of Tehran
8. Managing director of the Civil and Urban Services Commission of the City Council of Tehran;
9. Representative body of Amood Consulting Engineers Company;
10. Representative contractor for the construction of the City House building;
11. Experts of urbanism and urban sociology (2 members)
B) Temporary members:
Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Toursim Organization of Tehran;
Telecommunications Infrastructure Company;
Tehran Traffic Police;
Tehran Chamber of Guilds;
Industry and Occupation Organization Company of Tehran;
Tehran Police Force;
Tehran Urban and Suburban Railway Operation Company;
Tehran Bus Company;
Taxi Organization of Tehran;
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