Challenges of Participatory Urban Design: Suggestions for Socially Rooted Problems in Sang-e Siah, Shiraz

  • Elham SouriEmail author
  • Jahanshah Pakzad
  • Hooman Foroughmand Arabi
Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


A number of studies suggest that a poor engagement with stakeholders and problematic procedures of implementation are the key reasons for failures of many urban design projects in Iran. The international literature suggests that engaging with a wide range of social groups has a crucial role in delivering successful urban projects. However, there are many obstacles for participation. This chapter aims to identify the main constrains of public participation in urban projects by focusing on the case of Sang-e Siah in the historical part of the city of Shiraz in Iran. Encompassing numerous historical buildings, Sang-e Siah is one of the most important historical districts of Shiraz, due in part to its residents who have been living in this neighbourhood for generations. In fact, this area is an important case as it embodies a wide range of urban issues which are common in many other Iranian cities. The chapter commences by introducing a problematic participatory urban design project for the area. This is followed by identifying the main social obstacles found through qualitative interviews (with 20 residents of the neighbourhood) and meetings with authorities (including the municipality of Shiraz and other organisations responsible for providing and maintaining urban infrastructures). Through the interviews, the residents’ perceptions and concerns about the neighbourhood were found to be important. The study concludes that there are two major burdens to public participation in the urban project: (a) mental constraints of both residents and authorities, embodied in misunderstandings of the participatory approaches (b) the challenging socio-economic conditions of the community embodied in high rates of social problems. These findings can be better explained in the light of the history of the Iranian society, which points at culturally produced, mental burdens against engagement with communal activities. Participatory activities in particular face deep-rooted issues requiring long-term supportive programmes such as educational and cultural initiatives, some of which recommended here. This study offers insights into participatory urban design in Iranian historical districts. As a long-term policy, educational and cultural changes are discussed. The long-term policy follows enhancing socio-economic characteristics of the communities through delivering environmental qualities, as a mid-term policy.


Participatory urban design Social problems Sang-e Siah Shiraz 


  1. Carmona M, Heath T, Oc T, Tiesdel S (2003) Public places urban spaces. Routledge, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Lee Y (2008) Design participation tactics: the challenges and new roles for designers in the co-design process. CoDesign 4(1):31–50. Scholar
  3. Linden A, Billingham J (1998) History of urban design group. In: Urban Design Group. Urban Design Source Book, UDG, Oxford, pp 40–170Google Scholar
  4. Manzini E, Rizzo F (2011) Small projects/large changes: participatory design as an open participated process. CoDesign 7(3–4):199–215. Scholar
  5. Pakzad J (2002) Expert culture and people culture. Urban Manag J 08:32–41 (in Farsi)Google Scholar
  6. Pakzad J (2004) Comparative study of Iranian and European cities in order to finding historical obstacles of public participation. Soffeh No. 37:25–41 (in Farsi)Google Scholar
  7. Safavi A (2011) Investigating the role of urban development management system in good urban design implementation—case of Iran. Urban Manag J Winter Autumn 28:255–272 (in Farsi)Google Scholar
  8. Saghafi Asl A, Zebardast E, Majedi H (2016) Evaluation of implementing urban design projects in Iran, case study: implemented projects in Tehran. Armanshahr Architect Urban Develop J 9(17):185–197 (in Farsi)Google Scholar
  9. Sanders E, Stappers P (2008) Co-creation and the new landscapes of design. CoDesign 4(1):5–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Shahid Beheshti University (2016) Pathological study of urban design projects in Iran. A report to Ministry of Roads and Urban Development (in Farsi)Google Scholar
  11. Tan L, Szebeko D (2009). Co-designing for dementia: the Alzheimer 100 project. AMJ 1(12):185–198Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elham Souri
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jahanshah Pakzad
    • 1
  • Hooman Foroughmand Arabi
    • 2
  1. 1.Shahid Beheshti University, SBUTehranIran
  2. 2.University of West EnglandBristolUK

Personalised recommendations