The First Modern Square in Tehran City (Historical and Spatial Evolution of Old Tehran Squares until Modern Age)

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Prof. of Architecture, Islamic Azad University, UAE Branch

2 Assistant Prof. of Urban Planning and Design, Islamic Azad University, UAE Branch


Extended Abstract
While forms of cities in Iran have been transformed from traditional structure into modern one,
in the same line, the urban elements including squares changed and appeared in a totally new
Traditional squares in Iran have normally been vast open spaces enclosed with public
traditional uses such as public baths, cisterns, mosques, bazars, palaces and governmental
buildings. All of these squares have coherently been articulated with the city fabric for people.
Since the first Pahlavi, urban fabric of Tehran, and accordingly its squares, has changed
specifically for using cars or applying new modern infrastructures. Thus, from this time on in
Tehran, two types of development overlays each other: The traditional layer consisting of
organic and narrow roads and the modern layer with orthogonal and grid roads. To some extent,
the same prototype has been followed in other big or small cities and settlements.
The roundabouts or so-called modern squares emerged at the intersection of road networks
across the cities. Therefore, the main usage and scale of these squares was defined for vehicular
transportation. Around this new urban element at the crossroads some modern functions were
emerged: municipality, post and telegraph office, hotels, banks, national police office, county
authorities and province governor buildings which all were, less or more, relevant to the
governmental uses. In the middle of the squares itself there was regularly either a statue of the
first Pahlavi or any other urban landmark.
It is historically significant to figure out the first modern square in Tehran city. Most 
probably it has been the origin of modern squares and main pattern for the other squares in
Tehran and all other Iranian cities. The main objective of this research is to discover the first
modern crossing point in the new development layer of Tehran which is imposed to the
traditional city. This cross point will demonstrate architecture and urban design issues related to
modern and traditional developments in Iran. As Michael Web noted:
“We cannot bring back the past, but we can learn from it. An older square that is an
organic part of its community usually serves present needs better than a new space
ordained by a planner or developer. Cities are learning to preserve, improve and adopt
the squares they have, rather than opening up more. People have always enjoyed coming
together, and this survey celebrates the different ways in which that impulse can be
fulfilled.” (Web, 1990)
This is an explanatory and case study research that focuses on the central city of Tehran within
Naseri’s Fortification and its proximities. The mode of the research is historical and it explores
Tehran city from the origins to the end of Modern period. It investigatealmost all the primary
squares of the city in that period including Sabze Meydan, Arg, Topkhaneh, Baherstan,
Mokhber-al-dole, Rah Ahan and Hassan Abad.
Moving from the more general to specific observation the research explanation has basically
got a deductive or top-down approach. The research approach inherently avoids any normative
interpretation and deals with positive statements.
In addition to time and location, the spatial characteristic has been another main component
for discovering the first modern square of Tehran. Spatial characteristics, in here, include:
• Land uses and functions of the squares and surroundings
• Type of access and the articulation of roads and squares
• Morphology, orientation and the layout of the squares
• Architectural prototypes and physical-visual aspects of the squares
Illustrations and texts dealing with urban space analysis and square evolutions as well as
specific studies on architecture and urban design of Tehran have made the main data and
materials for this research.
Results and Discussion
Comparing the traditional and modern factors of city squares, the first modern square of Tehran
city will be hopefully discovered. Thereby, the research discusses and analyzes the first squares
of Tehran city in three periods:
• From establishment of the city to demolishing Tahmasbi’s fortification and the city
development through Naser-Aldin Shah dynasty.
• From above-mentioned period to the first Pahlavi.
• New development of Tehran central part during the First Pahlavi to 1933.
The transformation of squares in Tehran through the years and toward modernization is 
discussed in different aspects: Land use, Access, Morphology and Architecture Style. The
discussions indicate that squares are reshaped from irregular to regular shapes and are
interlinked to urban vehicular streets at all. Furthermore, diagonal and defined spaces are
amongst the main square characteristics in modern period. Locating new and modern land uses
and widening the scale of mass and solid spaces around the squares are other distinctive changes
of modern city development in Tehran.
Moreover, squares are connecting to one another with regular, diagonal and linear streets
while sculptures and water features are vastly added to their landscape. The architecture style in
proximity of squares follows more extroverted rather than introverted development and it, in
turn, reduces the enclosures of the squares.
The outcome of this research shows that Topkhaneh Square which is made during Qajar period,
dynasty of Naserdin Shah, is the first square in Tehran which has acquired modern
characteristics of urban spaces.
The location of the square at the focal point of the city from which the city has been
developed as well as the spread of modern functions including bank and telegraph offices
around the square have made this segment different from all traditional squares in Iran.


Main Subjects

Volume 45, Issue 4 - Serial Number 4
January 2014
Pages 177-196
  • Receive Date: 18 July 2012
  • Revise Date: 18 January 2014
  • Accept Date: 13 February 2013
  • First Publish Date: 22 December 2013