Tension and urban sustainability: Case study - The metropolis of Mashhad, Iran

E. S. Mashhadi, J. F. Lejeune

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The flawed transformation of many old cities in response to contemporary emerging conditions has created incongruities which have drastically reduced their initial sustainable performance. There are examples however, where the inevitable and necessary transitions have adopted the promising qualities of traditional typologies and urban morphologies. From the very beginning, Mashhad - Iran's second most populous metropolis - has developed a unique character. Not confined to Islamic, semi-medieval urban morphology neither to axial or purely gridded configuration, it has sustained a symbiotic equilibrium between two opposing systems. Purported to be a religious city, the other aspect has never been clearly discussed. Indeed, while the hegemony of religious ideology has never allowed the annunciation of the city's liberal interests, its overall configuration and civic character has been the expression of tension between two contrasting themes. A sacred event established a thriving center. The locus of all religious views generated a complex centripetal and radial configuration. The contest to remain as close as possible to the center, has resulted in a congested and irregular fabric. The axis, on the contrary, disassociated from the former theme, provides movements outward and evokes a mental and physical freedom which yields to linear and gridded patterns. The inclination toward a liberated expansion has been conducive to the formation of ample open and green spaces, scattered throughout the city. Hence, the dichotomy of two doctrines has been reflected into their urban manifestations. Their correspondence and simultaneity in time and space have been the underlying principle for the city's fascinating status. By analysing the key historical moments in the evolution of the city, this paper will describe how urban morphology, its corresponding socio-cultural structure and their mutual influence on the city's ecology, have collectively contributed to the formation of a sustainable metropolis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Sustainable City VIII - Urban Regeneration and Sustainability
Number of pages14
Volume179 VOLUME 1
ISBN (Print)9781845647469
StatePublished - 2013


  • Iran
  • Mashhad
  • Metropolis
  • Morphology
  • Religious city
  • Sustainability
  • Urban axis
  • Urban design
  • Urban sustainability
  • Urban typology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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