Negotiating Tehran’s Identity: The Spatial-Discursive Assemblage Around the Reconstruction of Baladiyeh (EN)

The stylistic restoration and reconstruction of ruined historic monuments has become a controversial issue in various socio-political contexts, from Nanjing to Dubai to Berlin. In the Iranian capital, too, the stylistic restoration and reconstruction of historic public places and monuments is being discussed. Critics have often referred to the Qajar-style cladding on both old and contemporary buildings as a thick make-up for the decaying face of Tehran’s city centre, turning it into a marketable product for the tourism industry. Acknowledging the economic aspects of heritage planning in Tehran, this lecture focuses on identity politics; a less-discussed dimension of the afore mentioned projects. Aware of the prevailing nostalgia for the 1960s and 1970s in Tehran’s public sphere, the reform-oriented urban planning administration seems inclined to associate physical public space with the era before this period. More specifically, through heritage planning, the municipality has sought to ease the tensions between Tehran’s traditional and Islamic Qajar past and its modernist and secular Pahlavi past. Drawing upon a combination of online and offline ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2019 and 2022, the study also incorporates archival sources to explore the legal and administrative dimensions of the examined processes. Central to the lecture is the reconstruction of Baladiyeh, the Qajar municipality building located in the Toopkhaneh Square of Tehran. By outlining the spatial-discursive assemblage around the Baladiyeh case in Tehran, it aims to contribute to international case study inquiries into the role of the restoration and reconstruction of historic public places in identity politics.