Planning Modernity in Kabul

Urban design as developmental politics

Authored by: Pietro Calogero

The New Companion to Urban Design

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138302129
eBook ISBN: 9780203731932
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9780203731932-49

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Abstract

Afghan political leaders have used urban design to reshape Kabul for almost a century, as part of the modernization efforts of multiple regimes. Interpretations of modernity have shifted from the jadidism of Afghan leaders, such as Habibullah and Amanullah, in the early 20th century, to the socialist ideals of Eastern Bloc planners, to the capitalist ideals of the Bush/Karzai regime, to an emergent rights-oriented rhetoric since 2014. In all cases, however, the visual-spatial vocabulary of urban design was used to express and legitimize the ideals and ideologies of the particular national government in power. The approaches to urban design of Kabul and their underlying assumptions reflect numerous fundamental shifts in national political ideology over the past century. Part of the current challenge in urban design in Kabul is to reconcile such disparate ideologies with the everyday, prosaic practices of staff-level planners. The history of planning in Kabul reflects a century of conflict: contentious geopolitics, causing fundamental disagreements about the role and meaning of regulation, governance, and property itself.

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