Planning Principle Of Shushtar Township Cultural Studies Essay

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In 1973, the karoun Agro Industries Corporation decided to build a satellite town to house the employees of a sugar cane processing concern nearby. Shushtar new town was designed and constructed as a new residential community for 25 -30000 .The inhabitants were to be provided with the advantages of individual housing as well as communal facilities and infrastructural services include a shopping centre and bazaar, a mosque, a community and cultural centre, a school, sports facilities, a bus station and a bridge to the old town across the river. Development of Shushtar New Town was also intended to revitalize the old town and to accommodate expansion generated by industrial growth in the region (Serageldin,1989) .

The urban design has been highly influenced by the rich topography and existing character of the site. The new town is sympathetic to the cultural values of Iranian society and also maintains a traditional continuity. Its outstanding characteristic of Islamic vernacular architecture; this encourage a high degree of social interaction and collectivity (The Aga Khan Award for Architecture ,1986) .

The project was planned in five stages, to have been completed by 1985. Construction was started in 1976, and most of the first phase, comprising housing for about 4000 inhabitants, was completed by 1977, due to the political events of 1979 the project failed to reach its final stage. However, opinion surveys of residents revealed that the project achieved its principal aims and that Shushtar Now has been a good initiative.


The site is located to the north of Shushtar . It is divided from old city by the Shatit River. New Shushtar is connected to the old city of Shushtar by a bridge named Shadravan , and is on the road to the city of Dezful . The river Karoun , which flows north to south in the eastern limit , and a branch of Shatit is the southern boundary of the site (The Aga Khan Award for Architecture ,1986) .

Topographically the site is undulating, which allows for a variety of building forms. It is otherwise quite featureless, with a gentle slop from north to south. The land is partly arable, but is mostly desert sand .The location of the site is suitably chosen in its relation to the industrial complex (18 km from Shushtar) and the already established city (The Aga Khan Award for Architecture ,1986).

Historical background

The first inhabitants of the Shushtar region belonged to the Elamite civilisation (about 3000 - 4000 B.C.)Shushtar is one of the oldest fortress cities. It was an island city on the Karoun River during the sassanian era when it also became the winter capital. The fortress walls were destroyed at the end of the Safavid era from 1502 to 1722 A.D (The Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 1986).

The existence of several rivers near Shushtar is one of the important factors for the extension of the agriculture. The main crop is sugar cane, a cultural which dates back to the sasanian period (226 - 651 A.D)(The Aga Khan Award for Architecture ,1986).

Most of the Shushtar s buildings belong to the safavid era. The foundation of the city is attributed to the Abassid dynasty. Buildings are mostly of mud brick. They become a formal arrangement of four rooms separated by the cross-formed barrel-vaulted iwans .The central intersection was an open courtyard. This form was also found in the layout of the fortress city with fortress walls forming a square. The main street, the transepts and the house occupied each quarter. The castle or administrative center, mosque, baths and school were at the geometric center. The cross form was also the symbol for the ancient Iranians (Serageldin, 1989).

Shushtar city once had a big and splendid bazaar which was connected to one of the gates of the city. This kind of bazaar is usually built since the Islamic period around the Jame Mosque . During the safavid era the bazaar was reconstructed around two main city squares (The Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 1986).


Kamran Diba (born 5 March 1937) a native Iranian architect & planner. He studied architecture and sociology at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1969, after having begun in private practice, he established DAZ Consulting Architects and Engineer, he left Iran and his large practice called "DAZ Architects, Planners and Engineers" in 1978, a year before revolution. Since then he has worked in London and Washington D.C. and presently he works in Paris, and Costa del Sol, Spain.

Diba is an Aga Khan Award winner. His work Shushtar New Town has been exhibited at the Venice bienal and in the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art's travelling exhibition "AT THE END OF THE CENTURY". He has served on international architectural juries and has lectured widely. As architect planner and cultural promoter Kamran Diba has created many innovative institutions in Iran, namely a museum and several cultural centers. As the architect and later funding director of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art he amassed a sizeable collection of modern and contemporary art for that institution.  His architectural work has a touch of vernacular,although a modernist. He believes strongly in cultural context and continuity. Diba's work is focused on social interaftion and individual psychological experience of the built environment. [1] 

Shushtar / Shushtar-New (relative situation)

Spaces in common between Shushtar-New and old Shushtar

Distribution of social services through the pedestrian spinal axis in Shushtar-new

Shushtar- New (Topography)


The design and planning principle of Shushtar Township reflects the traditional pattern of Iranian architecture. The generic house form is introvert and climate responsive in nature, primarily constructed of local material and thus reverential to local customs and culture. One of the primary design objectives of the planners was to make the new community an organic extension of the existing urban fabric. Materials such as brick, traditional patio house types, and neighborhood configurations similar to those of old Shushtar were therefore adopted for the satellite city (Khan, 1985).

The Western notion of a house as an agglomeration of living room, dining room and bedrooms was abandoned at Shushtar. Diba concentrated on the traditional concept of the room as a flexible unit, and provided large spaces which are multi-purpose and potentially divisible. Two and three-room housing units were planned which could become a four, five or six-room house as the family's standard of living improved. Influenced by strong nomadic cultural traditions, Iranian houses are not only adaptable to different daily functions but also to the season; in a typical courtyard house, the inhabitants can move around the courtyard to avoid or welcome the sunshine (Diba, 1983).

The Iranian way of life requires fewer but larger spaces-room sizes average 5 x 5 meters, with the smallest rooms not less than 4 x 4 or 3 x 4 ,eighty percent of the dwellings are one or two-story houses, and all units are provided with a garden which is designed as a roofless outdoor room (Diba ,1983).

Thick walls, small windows on the shady side of the house, usually facing a small inner courtyard. Entry from the street is usually through a small protected space, between the street and the entry door, which provides a cool space for people walking down the street to meet and talk. The flat rooftops are accessible by steps for evening sleep. The parapet walls surrounding the roof are often perforated for ventilation using brick grilles, high enough to provide shading, though not enough to give privacy from neighbors (The Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 1986).

The massing of the buildings is parallel arrangement of mostly one and two store houses that are clustered along narrow streets following traditional models for privacy. The treeless, narrow streets are paved in bricks. The top floor of the apartment houses is built along the street front to maximize shading (Serageldin, 1989).

The focal point is a taller structure with four-store walk-up apartments around an enclosed plaza - now used as a marketplace. Although the street network reflects a rectilinear pattern of rational installation for infrastructure, planned irregularities occur, such as differences in street levels, setbacks of facades, and first-floor bridging over the street, to break up the monotony of repeated merits (Khan, 1985). Facades are simple, rectilinear and of good proportion. Although the facades along each street are generally on the same plane, shaded recessed articulations and variable wall heights often provide the variety necessary to avoid monotony.

Conception and topology of houses

In each familial cell two zones coexist:

- Andaruni (a) private familial area

- Biruni (b) area reserved for exterior and social relations

The linkages between these two zones are assured through the courtyard space, which also acts as the catalyzing element of equipment distribution. The composition of the houses creates privileged orientations.

In view of the topography and slight slope of the ground, the buildings intermingle in a harmonious composition displaying an interesting human scale.

The contrast between the vast public spaces (social center, commercial area, etc. ) and the dense fabric of the streets and residential neighborhoods offers the visual and spatial diversity desirable in such planifications. By its dimensions, the center of the city acts as a visible landmark and center of attraction throughout its quarters. The facades of the houses are articulated by interjacent walls and differentiated plans underlined by the play of brickworks beneath the windows and upon the arcades of the entries(The Aga Khan Award for Architectur , 1986).

Most residential streets are east/west oriented so that houses catch the prevailing north wind. To further foster privacy and neighborhood activity, automobile traffic is prohibited in the residential areas.

With due respect for their function as corridors, streets were designed to generate a life of their own. In older cities, streets often serve as a kind of playground or meeting place. In simulation of this, architecture designed a number of dead-end streets was created which preserve privacy and identity. It was managed to separate the automobile from community life as much as possible; all parking is concentrated in strategic areas.

One major street feature is the pedestrian and social "spine." All activities and all roads eventually lead to that space, and neighborhoods are designed to encourage the population to move in the direction of the main spine, consisting of many squares, lush gardens and fountains. Schools and bazaars are also situated along the main spine. The contrast between the narrow treeless neighborhood streets and verdant spine is a striking image. It is also a highly practical design, because the maintenance of growing trees and landscaping private streets would have been too costly and luxurious for Shushtar. Thus, the planting of trees in private neighborhood streets was avoided, but private gardens were situated so that their vegetation could create shade and lend a bit of greenery to the streets (Diba, 1983).

The new town is capable of integrating different income groups, although designed primarily for employees of a single firm (Karun Agro-Industry). To reduce the "company town" character, a percentage of houses should be made available on the open market .The uncomfortable stigma of low income housing has been avoided in the basic design concept by the provision of open-ended units, able to expand as necessary. In this way, social and architectural growth is accommodated within the existing fabric (Diba ,1983).

The public buildings grouped along the east/west pedestrian boulevard are designed to give neighbourhood identity to each block in the traditional manner. Public buildings are set at an angle to the grid, which organizes the entire plan, to punctuate the dense residential fabric. In the residential clusters, each of the 650 units use the traditional organization with multifunctional rooms arranged around a courtyard and roof terraces for sleeping (Serageldin,1989).

View of the roofs

Linkage of public services by means of a central spine

Catalyzing element of neighborhoods Social activities and encounters Children's playgrounds


Traditional construction methods were used by the local contractor who used local materials and mostly local, unskilled labour. Load-bearillg walls are built of locally made bricks and footings are of concrete. Roofs are framed with steel beams supported by the walls or by engaged piers. Conventional shallow barrel vaults in brick span four meters between the beams. Ceilings are finished with plaster. Floor finishes are terrazzo tiles on concrete slabs. Wall finishing is mostly of brick but sometimes in kitchens and bathrooms, cement is used. Door and window openings are circular brick arches or lintels. Streets are paved in patterned brick with tile borders (Serageldin, 1989).

Neighborhood Plaza

Critical evaluation

At the beginning it should be mentioned that the building program had been stopped before completion regarding to political events and the unexpected factors happened which effect city function away from its original design.

The projects were planned in five stages while just the first phase was completed. At the first phase, it was supposed that 4000 inhabitants settled in site, despite the fact that the population to be housed grew to more than 10,000. The excess is due mainly to the number of refugees which moved into New Shushtar as a result of the war but city resources such as water and electricity haven't been enough for this population, as result of the war, many of these families had to live in incomplete houses even without windows.

Shushtar NewTown is perfect example as large scale urban housing in Iran which combine local life styles, traditions and customs with contemporary goals of industrial development.

The project reflects traditional and indigenous Iranian architecture specifically the architecture of Shushtar and Dezful. The project adapted to the region climate and site topography ::::::::: . Interesting perspectives created by a design well adapted to the topography of the streets and buildings framing vistas and itineraries. The project suggested visual and functional diversity of passage way and public centers while keep unity of mass and materials.

With observation of old city of Shushtar, Pedestrian Street designed to improve a communal sense and social, human encounters, all important function placed along it to encourage people move through this spaces. Human scales , creation of shaded and lighted area are design examples that developed during project .

Consider to different level of site one of the problem is that some of the houses or apartments are within each other's ranges of sight; which harms the feeling of privacy (social) and mahramyyat (religious). Apart from the 2- storied complexes of 4 apartments, which are rather small and within neighbors' range of vision, this problem is not generally very acute , in view of the advantages and problems pertaining to the layout of the city .

Elements of interest:

- Human scale, obtained through general proportions.


- Creation of shaded and lighted areas (relationship of passageways with esplanades and houses) .

- Aspect and execution of the facades of houses (brick, cement), which accentuate their privileged function in comparison with the public centers

By the design of its spaces, it generates a communal sense and social, human encounters. The users are satisfied with the functionality of the houses and the layout of the apartments.