Religion and the Built Environment in Informal Settlements: A Focus on Karevan in the Suburbs of Tehran

By Wisam Elhamoui.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

“Cultural environment” is the term used to refer to the different cultural components that influence and shape every built environment. Ensuring sustainable development as well as the material and spiritual wellbeing of the community is closely related to understanding and internalising its cultural environment. Religion is one of these “pillars” that constitute a “cultural environment” and, as such, its role within the built environment is worth investigating further.
This paper explores the importance of deciphering intricate dynamics in the built environment, and the relevance of such an in-depth understanding to development practitioners in urban contexts. The focus here is religion, an overlooked aspect that is still prevalent in certain contexts. The following study will examine the role of religion, with a particular focus on “Islam”, in the construction of contemporary informal neighbourhoods in Iran after the 1979 revolution.
In the time of political, social and economic unrest that led to and followed the 1979 Iranian revolution, Tehran grew rapidly to become surrounded with informal settlements. Religion played an important role in this expansion. The research finds that religion can influence the built environment crudely in two manners. The first can be called “external”, and refers to all external elements which influence individuals in building their homes. The second can be referred to as “internal”, and points to the inner authority and mindset of residents which manifests itself in the aspects they choose to incorporate in the design of their houses. The two categories are not finely divided, and are in continuous dialogue with each other.

Keywords: Religion and the Built Environment, Sustainable Development, Participatory Approach, Islam, Informal Neighbourhoods, Iranian City, Karevan, Tehran, Post Iranian Revolution

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.187-204. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 962.277KB).

Wisam Elhamoui

Student, Programme of Islamic Studies and Humanities, Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, UK

Wisam Elhamoui (1983): An Architect with multidisciplinary training in architecture, urban planning and social sciences. His under graduate studies in architecture, and his further studies in Humanities and Islamic studies at the Institute of Ismaili Studies gave him the opportunity to develop a new comprehensive understanding of the built environment, its design and its relationship to the society that occupies it. The endeavour of his transdisciplinary research is maximising the enabling role of the built environment in the life of the community. Recent written papers include: The Wailing Wall: Reconfiguration of Space Under Religious and Political Conflict; The Architecture of Cordoba Mosque at its First Establishment; Mystical Architecture in Muslim Traditions; The Influence of International Approaches on Local Urban Planning. His current research interest is developing urban contexts in Muslim majority countries.