PUBLIC SPACES AS A PALIMPSEST OF CITY LAYERS: THE CASE OF BAHARESTAN SQUARE IN TEHRAN (IRAN)
Keywords:city layers, collective memory, palimpsest, Baharestan Historic Square
This paper intends to underline the importance of historic public spaces as the deposits of collective memories, proposing the critical analysis, reinterpretation, and systematization of relevant informative historical layers as a counter model to the globalizing tendencies and their fast pace of transformation. Baharestanis a historic square located in the northeast of Tehran’s Historic Center, and it is the home to Iran’s Parliament and the Ministry of Culture. It makes the square significant at the national level, especially due to its location surrounded by several exquiste historical heritage buildings. However, following the decline of Tehran’s historic center, Baharestan lost its socio-cultural vitality and spatial quality, hosting urban functions mainly heterogeneous to its identity, and eventually turning into a traffic node. Through the comparative study of numerous historical documents, and adapting the concept of “palimpsest”, Baharestan Square has been interpreted as the assemblage of different city layers in relation to the environmental and socio-political narratives of the city. The shift from one layer to another intends to reflect some of the lost memories of Tehran and its collective identity in the transition from traditional to modern society. Later on, the paper argues how this palimpsest quality and co-evolution of those plural layers and narratives in Baharestan demonstrate this symbolic square as a “catalytic social infrastructure”, giving Tehran an opportunity to overcome the challenge of “social amnesia” and promoting its civic culture and cohesion.
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