Tourism and Urbanism in Iran

Top-down and ad hoc developments in the Caspian region

Authored by: Pamela Karimi

Routledge Handbook on Middle East Cities

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

Print ISBN: 9781138650749
eBook ISBN: 9781315625164
Adobe ISBN:


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Tourist urbanism in northern Iran’s Caspian region, a major retreat for the affluent, is explored from the 1960s to the present. Early examples of imported Western models of resorts and touristic urban developments by local entrepreneurs and government-employed foreign design firms are examined, as are alternative solutions offered by Iranian architects and planners who attempted to introduce building methods more characteristic of the area’s traditional built environment. The 1979 Iranian Revolution and the war with Iraq halted many such efforts; however, semi-governmental organizations have recently transformed urban tourism on a large scale through top-down developments. Having examined a new generation of independent and freelance architects who resist such models and create Western-looking yet introverted villas that allow for leisure activities prohibited in public places by the Islamic Republic, the study concludes that while alternative design movements driven by a local logic are often overlooked in urban and architectural studies of Iran, they nevertheless continue to affect the Caspian touristscape.

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