Nejad, Reza Masoudi. “The Spatial Logic of the Crowd: The Effectiveness of Protest in Public Space.” In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 2, Number 1 (pp. 157-178), edited by Mohammad Gharipour, Bristol: Intellect, 2013.
The result of the 2009 Iranian presidential election sparked protests in the streets of Tehran. This article focuses on the spatial logic of crowd occurrence and the role played by protest location in its effectiveness. Although the symbolism of space is pronounced in crowd studies from Gustav Le Bon to Charles Tilly, there is a lack of attention to the logic of crowd culmination and movement in relation to actual physical urban spaces. There are new studies examining how public space is utilized during times of political turmoil; these studies, however, focus mostly on the specific place of protest, and do not examine crowd dynamics in the city at large. This article, in contrast, contributes to the understanding of the spatial logic of mass occurrence by examining the city structure as a whole. It argues that the location of a public space in a city is far more important than its symbolic connotations, and that, following Tilly, the impact of crowds depends not only upon the what he calls WUNC equation (representing Worthiness, Unity, Numbers and Commitment of a crowd), but also on the spatial characteristics of the place of the protest.
Keywords: Tehran; crowd; protest; public space; space syntax; uprising