Recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2001.
The programme comprises a range of interventions in several of the historical cities of Iran, aimed at encouraging a process of market-driven urban regeneration. Building on a joint process of documentation and research of the historical urban fabric in these cities, a number of houses and public buildings have been acquired, restored and sold or let to new owners or tenants who have identified new uses for these buildings.
The physical restoration, while an achievement in itself, serves as a catalyst for a process of awareness-raising as to the intrinsic value of the historical urban environment and the commercial viability of the restored buildings. In a context where the bulk of private property investment takes place in peri-urban areas, the programme specifically aims to attract investment in the historical urban centres by promoting the reuse of key buildings as a means of encouraging sustainable regeneration of these neighbourhoods. Along with other initiatives in this field, the restoration projects themselves provide opportunities for employment and training of craftsmen in a range of traditional construction skills, while demonstrating the rich cultural heritage of Iran to users of and visitors to the buildings. While the overall programme covers a wide range of related activities, to which reference will be made as appropriate, the primary focus of this review is on eight completed projects in Isfahan and Yazd, which illustrate the general approach being taken.
The primary objective of the programme is to arrest the physical and social decline of the historical urban centres through the restoration of significant buildings and their reuse for purposes that meet the current needs of the urban community. The strategy is to raise awareness of the cultural value of surviving historical buildings while demonstrating their commercial and practical viability for possible private investment on a wider scale within these neighbourhoods. By exploiting the prevailing differentials in urban land and property prices, the UDRC has attempted to create the conditions for a sustainable regeneration of the historical fabric. The programme has also set out to create much-needed employment and opportunities for the development of specialist skills, in close collaboration with other organizations involved in restoration activities.