I want to talk about traumatic Urbanism, before I jump in, I want to point out this photograph to you, it’s really important to me. Here you see two children playing or literally swimming in the gutter next to a highway, which to me is a very small but very important example of a node of behavioral malfunction, generated by/stem from a traumatic urbanism.

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Cities are plagued with traumatic events, natural catastrophes, wars, economic conflicts, infrastructural breakdowns and so forth. These disruptions can have a gradual or an instant impact taking not only social and psychological forms, but also a physical and spatial influence within the urban fabric.


looking at the overall urban environment of cities, Catastrophes leave remnants in the continuous fabric of the city. What we are facing in the near future is a huge pile of remnants of cities infrastructures, buildings that are destroyed and trashes, detached in the continuity of the city.

These are all the result of a gradual spread of an accident: GROWTH. Growth is being recognized as the catastrophe, leaving remnants in the city. Nods of malfunction will be the remnants of the growth.

Cities are expanding, doubling, tripling, and the earth will not fit the population anymore in the near future.


Traumatic urbanism is being characterized as identifying the volatility of the moments of perturbations in infrastructures. As the picture above is showing, due to the growth, lots of residential buildings are demolished and created a platform of remnants.

In a very abstract language, I define these perturbations/disruptions as a remnant of a catastrophe (the catastrophe would be the cause of the trauma in the fabric/infrastructure of the city); meaning the event(growth) occurs, it destructs the physical matter of the existing condition and it leaves “remnants”. Remnants of the structure.


let’s imagine a grid which consists of these small scale individual elements, as a reaction to external forces, looking from above, components will behave similarly, but then zooming into one of these single components, knotting, discontinuity, stretching, misalignment, subtraction, addition, packing and clustering, would be multiple types of strategies that operates at the local small scale moments.

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Tehran, a city that is traumatized by growth a city that has gone through an unplanned, out of control growth, is a site of investigation for my research. Tehran’s growth pattern has been influenced by multiple external forces, political, economic, geographic and cultural throughout history.


Looking at Tehran’s historic urban fabric, the structure of Bazaar, palace, mosque, was the primary driving force for the centric, radial growth of Tehran. This triangle started with the creation of a bazaar on remains of the Silk Road and was surrounded by a city wall. Bazaar started from the southern gate and continued to the western gate, working as the backbone of the city.Located on the south of the royal complex and The Friday mosque, located on the north-south axes, was connecting the two major gates.


These three main elements: bazaar, mosque, palace,  are set in place based on the hierarchy of movement. Bazaar as the main movement system in the city was connected to the residential areas, by second-degree connectors, such as streets and alleys.

So, this structure became a the major component for expansion of the city, acting not only as economic backbone, but also formally located in the center, catalyzing the growth. So these are series of events, one leads to another..



on this large scale, the strategy is to implicate an imaginary grid into the existing network of the city. and to see what the start point of growth is and how Tehran produce its own glitches? How bazaar is reinforcing the grid to reshape itself. As it shows here, Bazaar as emanator of the growth, would be placed within the grid, acting as a central node, absorbing the existing condition, recreating or restitching  the network. So here, bazaar will operate to traumatize the physical matter of the fabric as well as emanating expansion of the city.


This traumatized city either by growth or by other instant catastrophes, brings with itself destruction and remnant. Nodes of behavioral malfunction, as remnants of infrastructural destruction, as the remnants of growth, begin to be repurposed and re-appropriated.

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While traditionally, these nodes have been created from traditional bazaar structure, however, these nodes could be created anywhere.. Next to the under construction highways, next to an existing highway or even in a parking area of a house being reused as a temporary store.

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HERE NEXT TO THE HIGHWAY: (remember that picture I showed at the beginning you may recognize the children in the image, this is my reaction to it)(now this node that was not working, I’m allowing the activity to happen….) – How the leftover spaces along the highways, could be repurposed to create another platform in the cities, occupied by people, reinforcing another layer of transportation on top,

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Remnants of demolished houses, create these multiple occupiable surfaces , that could be temporarily or permanently occupied by people and repurposed.

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Remnants of broken highways, add up new layers of occupation, new local mini cities, suggesting an entry/start point for these other set of connections…promoting new born buildings along these connections….

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The point is that these nodes of malfunction have the same logic as bazaar, they could act as emanators of growth. They are reinforcing a new type of relationship that didn’t exist in the city before. Overall, what I’m trying to hone in on is to find the cut-way plan for re-purposing the infrastructural breakdowns. The remnants of catastrophes have this material potential allowing to delayer the existing condition, just like bazaar that set in place and suggested this new type of growth pattern or patch, layers of programs (explain) will act as an entry point, a catalyst to a sort of new type of growth that does not fix the malfunction, but expands and extends it.  So this set of drawings illustrates the chemical process of nodes of malfunction becoming new moments for emanating or even redirecting the growth.

Sari, Iran

All of a sudden, city’s facade starts to communicate as a commercial skin. Temporary construction as a permanent infrastructure. This stems from a need. A need of a threshold of what industry/technology brings into communication world and what was before as a tangible fabric. 

But What does POST-TRAUMATIC Condition mean to me?

Temporal volatility of construction phase, the use of first floor while second floor is under construction. Sari, Iran

Overlap of construction and the act of living; a very narrow visual boundary between permanent demolition and permanent living; there is gonna be a huge highway, how does the adjacency work?

Recently, I came across a very interesting city in Yemen, called Shibam. The city is about1700 years old and is made of mud brick. It is better to say a wall city, that has been protected from Beduin attack by a wall surrounding it.  At it is called “the Manhattan of the desert”, its vertical growth and not expanding on a horizontal direction is remarkable. At the same time, since all these clay buildings are surrounded by a fortified wall, it creates a transitional condition between the future growth of the city of Shibam and the existing “cluster of residential towers”. Looking at this by the lens of “cultural shift”, the same story as city of Yazd, could happen here: the existing infrastructure, which has been working for a period of time, encountering the current growth and up to date needs of population. How is this transition  defined? How does society, as a very complex system, with multiple components, adapt itself to digest the current alteration of the needs that affect certain infrastructures?

How does the future circulation work?
-controlled growth

As could be seen above, this vacant lot is occupied by population, used as a public sphere, a place for communication and social life.

  Image on the right: Low rise mud brick houses of city of Yazd, Iran, facing narrow alleys, creates a dense condition which is within it, people are using shared infrastructures, such as common channels of water feeding the whole city, at the same time public shared common areas for social life.

Image on the left: high rise mud brick house of city of Shibam, Yemen, facing narrow alleys, creates the same condition in terms of social activities, although it is completely different in terms of its being limited to a wall.

-Privacy/growth/social life vs. individual activity


What is really bothering me when I am walking or passing by the streets of Tehran is the façade; the appearance of the city in the human scale. It’s like when I visit Tehran and I come out of it, I don’t have any unique perception, in a way that I could say: “Tehran is like this specific kind of architecture which is really impressive” but maybe I could say: “Tehran has a kind of architecture that  creates a really disharmonious city” which is an specific perception. The impression of a city which I’m talking about is constantly happening to me when I visit other cities or even San Francisco. Yazd is one of the Iranian cities that when I go and visit it, I could simply say “this is a symbolic city, representing Iranian vernacular architecture, adaptive to its particular climate.”  Beirut, with its off-shore, foothill, dense condition, Istanbul with its historical “Christianity Islamic confrontation” impact, Tokyo, with its dense condition and adaptive criterion for housing and commercial, technologic buildings; How can I describe Tehran? I’m somehow under the impression that all this senses that a city gives me as a distinguishing comprehension is the result of a very slow formation that has been influenced by lots of external forces, such as culture, religion, economy… Definitely demolishing and rebuilding is impossible/irrational. I am thinking about a new layer, something that could describe every ruined definition of Tehran as a not very old city, but one that carries many historical, political events in a short period (I’m talking about 200 to 300 years in comparison to other old cities of Iran with 3000 to 5000 years history) and cultural shifts, lots of economic, cultural revolutions which affected people life style and their expectations from a gigantic city that is open to any kind of activity.

-Written on 28th of July 2012

A very common type of a street, Tehran, Iran

old fabric of housing vs. vernacular office building, Sari, Iran

Thresholds. Boundaries. Territories. The terms are helpful when a transitional period/process/moment is the issue. 

I become more sensitive when natural and man-made landscape, indigenous behavior and “technological” lifestyle, two opposite political, economic and social systems meet each other. Image

What is “cultural shift”?