Investigating Social and Economic Structure of the Settlement and Designing a Plan for Future Growth

One of the major problems challenging the city of Tehran is the prevailing presence of informal settlements in and around the city. The way the city manages these settlements in the coming decade will determine its position in the global competition among cities in terms of livability and equitable development. This project initially started as a master’s thesis and was later presented and taken on by the city council of the time. It contains a development strategy for a small but rapidly growing informal settlement in the southwest of Tehran. The settlement (shall remain unnamed) was a former agricultural village, now included in the urban boundaries of a nearby city. After the revolution of 1979, it was flooded by migrant workers and war-affected population who had come in search of jobs and economic stability.

This settlement was an interesting case study from an urban planning point of view. First of all, it was a semi-urban community with a large migrant population, divided into three very distinct ethnic groups, with distinct population densities. Secondly, it was a relatively new community being formed in the periphery of a mega-city (Tehran), which is a common phenomenon echoed in other examples from around the city. Another challenging fact about the settlement was the presence of “awqaf” land, which is a type of Islamic land trust, making ownerships and management of land very complicated. The project included: i) design of a survey to understand the social structure and institutions of the settlement; ii) field research and interviews to develop an understanding of public spaces, social ties, and productivity patterns; iii) proposed urban plan and economic development strategy for the area.