From private gardens to public parks and back again; the transformation of green spaces of Tabriz in the twentieth century

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Graduate School of Natural and Applied Sciences, Turkey

Approval Date: 2020

Thesis Language: English


Supervisor: Mustafa Haluk Zelef


This study aims to shed light on the transition of the green space concept in Iran and particularly in Tabriz from the urban private courtyard house gardens to the public parks, and back to the private gardens in the countryside during the 20th century. Two major political revolutions in the contemporary history of Iran constitute the background of these spatial transformations. Rapid modernization orchestrated by Reza Shah Pahlavi transformed all aspects of people’s private lives in Iran after 1925 including their preferences for open spaces. Similarly, the Islamic Revolution in 1979 played a major role in the usage of green spaces. Due to its geopolitical position and fame as the ‘Garden City’ of Iran, Tabriz is selected as the case study of this research. Parallel to the rapid modernization, westernization, and secularization of the city, adapted from the European socio-spatial policies in the early 20th century, the green spaces in the old urban fabric were significantly affected by these movements. Besides the large scale royal gardens, the traditional green texture of the city with private courtyards inside the traditional houses, as the only outdoor spaces to gather family members, relatives and neighbors, were damaged considerably, and were replaced by the large boulevards and detached apartment blocks due to ideological, social and economic reasons. Parallel to these transformations, the emergence of new public green spaces called ‘parks’ resulted in the gradual departure of people from their private outdoor spaces into public ones. The secular autocratic state was replaced by a conservative theocratic state after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and due to the new dominant ideology and its policies, the dialectical relationship between public and private green spaces entered a new phase. Because of the uneven distribution of public green spaces and restriction of public activities in parks according to the Islamic laws, new usage patterns appeared. Some of the public parks created during the modernism were destroyed, some were neglected, serving only to the men of the underprivileged, and some new parks were established serving exclusively women (Women-only parks). As a counteraction, higher-income groups started to establish their own private green spaces in the countryside near the city to evade the social and political restrictions. This research aiming to trace the chronological transition process of private green spaces into the public, and back again to private spaces in the contemporary Tabriz context, utilizes archival resources, as well as observation and questionnaires directed to the users of the green spaces as research methods.