Set at the foot of the Alborz mountains, Tehran, once an agricultural enclave characterized by forests and abundant mountain water, developed at the site of a citadel since medieval times. Tehran was first walled during the Safavid era, in the mid-sixteenth century. With the decline of other regional centers, Tehran replaced Shiraz as the capital of the Zand dynasty in the mid-eighteenth century, before being proclaimed the capital of the succeeding Qajar dynasty in 1795. Tehran flourished under Qajar patronage, and the city gained the addition of various gardens and complexes, perhaps the most notable being the Kakh-i Gulistan, or Gulistan Palace.
By the early twentieth century, these walls were subsumed by the continually expanding city, as the population growth reached half a million. From 1870-2/1287-9 AH, Nasir al-Din undertook the city's modernization, extending the city walls, adding decorative towers and twelve new, tiled gates. Inspired by the urban development of Paris under Napoleon III, which al-Din had witnessed personally on a visit abroad in 1873, the new walls were designed with the work of Sebastien Leprestre de Vauban in mind, and the area north of the original city transformed to the likeness of the Boulevard Haussman. New avenues and squares were constructed, among them; Meydan-e Tupkhane (Cannon Square) , Avenue Lalezar (Tulipbed Street), and Ala Od Dwale Under al-Din's direction the city quadrupled in size, and many of the gardens surrounding the city were used for further construction. The Kakh-i Gulistan was rebuilt, and became the centerpiece of the city, with the addition of turreted towers, supervised by Dust 'Ali Khan Nizam al Dawla. Polychrome tiles replaced the painted ornamentation in much of the complex, as did carved stucco and decorative mirror-work. In addition to the Kakh-i Gulistan, summer palaces were constructed in the Shimiranat villages in the city's northern suburbs.
Tehran yet again underwent expansion and modernization efforts in the mid-twentieth century, as the prosperity that accompanied the exploitation of oil from the 1950s accelerated the growth of the city. In 1979, Tehran became a hub for revolutionary activities, aimed at concluding the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The city has continued to be a site of development, with over half of Iran's total industry being based in Tehran, and the construction of many research and educational centers.
Emami, Farshid. "Urbanism of Grandiosity: Planning a New Urban Centre for Tehran (1973–76)." In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 3, Number 1 (pp. 69-102), edited by Mohammad Gharipour, Bristol: Intellect, 2014.
In the 1970s a grand-scale ceremonial urban centre, with an extensive programme of governmental, commercial and residential buildings, was planned for north Tehran. Construction began in 1975, but was soon halted by the eruption of the street protests that led to the 1979 revolution. This essay analyses the project’s conception, socio-political underpinnings and ultimate failure, by contextualizing it within Tehran’s urban landscape and by tracing its design trajectory. As a grandiose project made possible by the oil boom, the final plan of Shahestan, drawn up by the planning firm Llewelyn-Davies International, not only reflects the megalomania of Mohammad Reza Shah (r. 1941–79) but also reveals the totalitarian nature of the Pahlavi regime in the 1970s. But prior to hiring the planning firm, Queen Farah supported a rival design by the internationally famous architects Louis Kahn and Kenzo Tange, who were indeed involved in the project for a few months before Kahn’s death in 1974. I argue that this duality of patronage, and all the oppositions that it embodies, is echoed in the gendered representation of monarchy in the final plan and signifies how the project subverts a liberal narrative of modernism. Moreover, the new urban centre was not at the city’s physical core but rather at the centre of its northern part – the locus of an expanding upper middle class. The discrepancy between the intended purpose of the project and the social realities of its urban context epitomizes the regime’s paradoxical approach to modernity and modernization.