Student Research Opportunities Program
Berlin University Alliance

SoSe 2021-22
Asli Aydin, Hazem Bassal, Azada Taheri, Lisa Körber, Ani Tashi, Fanny Toutoute,  Jenny Dyffort, Emil Jung, Dali Dardzhaniya, Pedram Jahanian, Leon Rassloff, Victor Jansen, Erisa Rakipaj


The seminar “Reconstructing the change, designing a toolbox of strategies”  took place in the hybrid format in the summer semester of 2022. Students from urban design, urban planing, architecture, architecture typology and Iranistic studies participated and showed high interest in the program. 
Same as the previous semester, the research project started with readings in urban and participatory topics and students were free to choose the literature and reflect it in a presentation format. Surprisingly few students have been already in Tehran and brought their personal perspective to the topic. Through guest lectures who were based in Tehran such as Niloufar Niksar and Mohammad Reza Haeri, we had the chance to discuss the questions that came up throughout the research. Son after the Virtual tour gave the students a deeper understanding of the spatial conditions of Imamzade Yahya. Setayesh Nejadi, my network in Tehran, assisted us to have a virtual walk in the streets and visit a number of houses in the neighborhood. By the end of the input sessions about the challenges and previous urban planning proposals of the neighborhood, the students found their interest and built four main groups to develope their research projects.

Group 1
“Understanding the unknown as an urban planner: A toolbox for elucidating, activating and integrating local knowledge in urban planning”
Lisa Koerber, Ani Tashi, Fanny Toutoute-Fauconnier

The issue of citizen participation in urban planning is a complex one. Beyond governance matters, such an approach requires in-depth understanding of the local context and the needs of the inhabitants. Our project aims at providing urban planners with tools to understand and learn from the everyday reality of marginalized populations, with the ultimate objective to enhance community participation. We decided to adopt a social science perspective, since our tutor as well as the other groups in this seminar focused on the design of spatial tools.

Mapping a number of important functions in the neighborhood - Diagram of  Answers from conversations on Instagram

Group 2
“Tactical Urbanism A toolbox for a network design of public spaces in Imamzadeh Yahya”
Asli Aydin, Hazem Bassal, Azada Taheri

Since we haven’t visited Imamzadeh Yahya in person, we conducted online research, watched the virtual tour of the neighborhood, and analyzed the district through the study of Bavand consulting engineers. According to the Bavand consulting engineers’ study, Imamzadeh Yahya has several issues such as migration challenges of the local community leaving the neighborhood, heavy traffic problems, degradation of the social environment, decayed buildings and infrastructure, lack of green spaces, recreational facilities, and healthy environment.
Through one of the networks in Tehran we had the chance to send our questions to interview a few actors in the neighborhood. One of the interviewees mentioned abandoned houses and how they can be used for gatherings and events after being renovated. Through the virtual tour of the neighborhood, we noticed the lack of public spaces for people on the streets. The streets are generally narrow, only allowing cars to pass, and when they are wide, they are used for car parking. There is a lack of public and leisure spaces for social interaction. Going through Instagram, we came across images showing the appropriation of a street corner by plants, a small fountain on the wall, or children watching an artist painting on the street enthusiastically. We started to notice how small corners on the streets or small activities can make big differences in social interaction and enhance the public space. Although the neighborhood has various problems and disadvantages, within the scope of the lecture and the urban design tools, we decided to focus on the issues related to public space and small interventions.

Selected sites for the small interventions

Reappropriating Niches in the neighborhood that are mostly dark and left alone or a parking spot for cars

Designing a flexible structure that is easy to be replicated in the old housing typologies and the niches

Group 3
Jenny Dyffort, Emil Jung, Dali Dardzhaniya

Once upon a time, there was a Pistachio Garden — a Persian Garden of poetry and music. It was bright during the day and full of pearls of wisdom under the starry sky. At the time, Tehran was a small city of fertile courtyards—open-air rooms inside the family houses. The rooms for nature and people, where vegetation protected homes from the sun, and the walls around kept humidity within. It was pure affinity.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, Iran got caught by the era of Black Gold—a world’s battle for energy and powers, and drastic alterations in the social modeling of Tehran started to lead to inconceivable changes in its urban fabric. An expansion has segregated wealth from poverty by distancing it in north-south cardinal directions. Highways stretched following the consumption order of the wealthy, disregarding social justice and welfare. Thus, Tehran is in critical condition ecologically referring to air pollution, groundwater pollution, flooding, overheating, tropical nights and water supply for humans, other animals and plants. The Grand Bazaar and neighbouring districts joined global trade with highly operational but empathetically insufficient rules. So have the courtyards of Imamzadeh Yahya lost parts of their knowledge, quality and identity of living.

Our toolbox reflects on the prospects of resynthesizing spatial, environmental, sensual, emotional, and cultural constructs around the green courtyard. We regard them as centres of everyday life and as refuges that need to be protected and qualified. We ask how can we recreate spaces where contemporary challenges, cultural identity, and nature remembers this forgotten mutual empathy? How can inward courtyards’ qualities cross over towards outwards public streets?

Group 4
“How can public interventions affect the livelihood of Imamzadeh Yahya if the process undergoes a paticipitory action? ”
Leon Rassloff, Erisa Rakipaj, Viktor Jansen

To avoid the process of top-down planing, often happening without noticing, the acceptance of the inhabitants is important. The transformation and implementation of different actions and constructions at certain places aim various goals. However the focus lies on the current needs and wishes the people spoke out and reflected on, during the process of interviews and personal talks with people knowing the district. Summarized, one main reason of the unused and meanwhile soiled, partly contaminated place is because of the snowball effect of the abundance and discreditation of houses as well as the increasing number of addicts, leaving spaces unsafe and risky. Each project not only aims for a deeper validation of places but also for the idea of easy and time-saving installations which temporarily can be used as a pilot project. Therefore we step back from deciding the ultimative solution but rather taking on the process of a participatory dialogue to satisfy as many wants and needs possible.

“Improving the functions of existing urban spaces based on contextual information, Imamzadeh Yahya, Tehran”

I tried to respond my main question using three sources. First of all, a literature about some interventions in historical sites has been reviewed as an initially step to find out what kind of consequences are to be expected. As the second source, the local people who live in the neighborhood responded to some questions that asked by the researchers. The all responses have been categorized and the most significant topics considered for next steps. Eventually, I used the results come from Bavand consultant company that is the firm in charge for investigations related to urbanism issues of the neighborhood.