Up through the 1870s, Tehran consisted of the walled “arg” (royal citadel), the roofed bazaar, and “sharestan” (where the masses resided in three main neighborhoods of “Udlajan”, “Chaleh Meydan”, and “Sangelaj”). The first development plan of Tehran in 1855 emphasized the traditional spatial structure. Architecture, however, found an eclectic expression to reflect the new lifestyle. The second major planning exercise in Tehran happened under supervision of Dar ul-Funun. The map of 1878 included new city walls, in the form of a perfect octagon with an area of 19 square kilometers, which mimicked the renaissance cities of Europe.
As a response to the growing social consciousness of civil rights, on June 2, 1907, the first parliament of Persian Constitutional Revolution passed a law on local governance known as “Ghanoon-e Baladieh”. The second and third articles of the law, on “anjoman-e baladieh”, or the city council, provide a detailed outline on issues such as the role of the councils in the city, the members’ qualifications, the election process, and the requirements to be entitled to vote.
After the First World War, Reza Shah, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, immediately suspended the “Ghanoon-e Baladieh” of 1907 and the decentralized and autonomous city councils were replaced by centralist/sectoralist approaches of governance and planning.
The changes in the urban fabric started with the street-widening act of 1933 which served as a framework for changes in all other cities. As a result of this act, the traditional texture of the city was butchered with cruciform intersecting streets creating large roundabouts, located on the major public spaces such as the bazaar or the hussainia.
As an attempt to create a network for the easy movement of goods and vehicles in Tehran, the city walls and gates were demolished in 1937 and replaced by wide streets cutting through the urban fabric. The new city map of Tehran in 1937 was heavily influenced by modernist planning patterns of zoning and gridiron network.
The establishment of the planning organization of Iran in 1948 resulted in the first socio-economic development plan to cover 1949 to 1955. These plans not only failed to slow the unbalanced growth of Tehran but with the 1962 land reforms, that Shah called the White Revolution, Tehran،s growth was further accentuated.
To bring back order to the city and resolve the problem of “hashyehneshini”, which is the Persian equivalent of marginality, the first comprehensive plan of Tehran was approved in 1968. The consortium of the Iranian consultants Abdol-Aziz Mirza Farmanfarmaian and the American firm of Victor Gruen Associates identified the city problems to be high density, expansion of new suburbs, air and water pollution, inefficient infrastructure, unemployment, and rural-urban migration. Eventually, the whole plan was marginalized by the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the subsequent Iran-Iraq war.