Document Type : Original Research Paper
1 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Khorasan-Razavi, Iran
2 Assistant Professor. Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Persian Gulf University, Boushehr, Iran
Urban neighborhoods used to be an essential part of the social, economic, and physical fabric of traditional Iranian cities. Strong ties, a sense of belonging, and cooperation among inhabitants had established an informal welfare system that has limited the intervention of authorities in neighborhoods’ affairs. The formation of the central government and rapid urbanization in the last century has changed the nature of urban neighborhoods from social and administrative units to mere physical urban blocks. At the same time, the application of modern planning tools such as zoning, land-use adjustment, and neighborhood-unit concepts have established homogenous physical neighborhoods with little attention to social issues. A brief analysis of today’s urban issues reveals that the traditional concept of ‘neighborhood’ has little place in the planning and management of cities. Demographic shifts, gentrification, and constant alteration of land-uses in contemporary neighborhoods have reduced the sense of belonging to a local community, and therefore have diminished social cohesion with the city. As a response to the current problems, in the past two decades, a shift in planning paradigms along with social and economic changes at the global level has transferred the focus of planning from macro scale to local scale of communities. Formation of various discourses such as neighborhood development, neighborhood planning, sustainable neighborhood-based development, urban village, etc.… accentuates the importance of local communities in urban planning and management, on the one hand, and emphasizes the need to revive the value of traditional communities on the other hand. Therefore, this study aims to revive and redefine social and administrative features of traditional neighborhoods in planning contemporary Iranian cities according to the following steps: first, this study analyzes the main social and administrative components of neighborhoods in traditional Iranian cities. Then, the main components of the neighborhood-based planning approach are derived to make a comparison between the former and the latter issues. Finally, this study provides strategies for the social-administrative regeneration of neighborhoods in contemporary Iranian cities. Due to its analytical and comparative nature, this research uses bibliographical documents to define the main components of the neighborhood-based planning approach. Then the social and administrative nature of neighborhoods in traditional and contemporary cities of Iran is analyzed and the main components and indicators are derived from library resources and deep discussion with experts. To make a comparison, a group of experts and specialists in urban issues were asked to compare the social-administrative components of traditional Iranian neighborhoods with the components derived from the neighborhood-based planning approach. The comparison highlights both supportive and deterrent factors in the realization of a neighborhood-based approach in the planning of contemporary Iranian cities. The data analysis displays the fact that many principles of neighborhood-based approach were used to be practiced regularly in traditional neighborhoods of Iranian cities. However, according to experts, some features of traditional neighborhoods such as patriarchy, hierarchical social structure, segregation of ethnic and religious groups, and restrictions on the presence of women in public spheres, are not compatible with the ideals of the neighborhood-based approach. On the other side, some features of contemporary Iranian neighborhoods, such as neighborhood councils, community-based organizations, and ethnoreligious inclusiveness are considered supportive factors in realization of a neighborhood-based approach. The result of this study also highlights two important issues: first, the social and administrative features of traditional Iranian neighborhoods are quite consistent with the components of neighborhood-based approach (however the existence of some deterrent factors are undeniable); second, redefinition and application of the neighborhood-based approach in contemporary Iranian cities establishes a good opportunity to solve urban challenges and urban management issues especially in large metropolises. The findings suggest that although social and administrative regeneration of traditional neighborhoods is associated with many challenges, the use of new planning tools, such as the neighborhood-based approach, can provide the necessary social, cultural, and administrative bases for realization of neighborhoods with a strong sense of identity and belonging. Since this study does not cover a specific statistical population, its results cannot be generalized to all cities in Iran. Future research can adopt a case study approach and define a statistical population to apply the issues raised in this study. However, the suggested strategies in this article can provide guidelines for policymakers and urban planners to provide processes to establish autonomous, self-sufficient, and self-supportive neighborhoods in contemporary Iranian cities.