Vernacular and Transnational Urbanism


the Tehran skyline at night by arash_rk on Flickr
the Tehran skyline at night by arash_rk on Flickr

 

During the course of our class readings we covered an excerpt from a book called Vernacular Architecture, by Henry Glassie. In his book he defines the word “vernacular” as a local or familiar architectural structure from out of the ordinary (Glassie p.25). the term “vernacular urbanism” can then be defined as a focus on the culture and geography as well as the politics of urban areas that have come to be symbolic of the people living in the area by means of local materials used for building as well as their shared beliefs of their culture and social characteristics. In his book, Glassie suggests that if a country is impoverished from a lack of economic structure or political corruption then most vernacular housing is largely centered on the basic neccesities of its people, whereas more structured and globalized countries largely center their vernacular housing on creating space and making the land as lush as possible. As you can see from the picture below of some of Tehrans vernacular housing, the land is fairly green with trees but lacks any lawns and gardens seen in more globalized countries but the building materials are farely similar with a touch of their own organic style as much of Tehran has a lack of master planning to their urban design.

 

On the other end of the spectrum is the transnational urbanism of tehrans business districts. transational urbanism can be seen as a focus on the political and economic culture of an area. In an article we read called Architectural Terrorism by Eric Darton we learned that the transnational urban world is comprised of the fastly growing urban centers devoted to the aspirations of multinational corporations. Many times these urban centers are created under the false notion that the community living there will eventually profit from their creation more than they would from the already highly productive and shared locations which are torn down in order to create them (Darton, Architectural Terrorism). Transnational urbanism has become more and more centered on its exterior image alone to try and give themselves a impression to the rest of the world that they are modern and prosperous but this has slowly come to deteriorate the values of diversity and shared wealth in their communities. Though Irans clerical conservitism has held back transnational accomadations for much of its modern history, places like Tehran are fast becoming centers for world trade as you can see from the downtown businesses in the image above.

 

The differences between vernacular and transnational urbanism can be enormous in terms of the amount of public and private wealth spent on certain areas of the city as well as the number of people who come to benefit from them. Many times already prosperous locations such as small business districts are taken by the city by their power of emminent domain or uprooted in large scale infrastucture or urban renewal plans. These types of displacements are usually deceitfully implimented and only further remove those people from the transnational community by leaving no room people who previously lived there or planned to work there. such was the case in Iran when the president implimented a plan for the safety of its citizens in the wake of an earthquake that destroyed many of the more impoverished sections of the city.

 

 

Some of Tehran's historical vernacular housing; from tehrantimes.com on google image search
Some of Tehran's historical vernacular housing; from tehrantimes.com on google image search

I also found this video depicting some of Tehran's past vernacular and transnational architectural.