Housing the Masses : Domestic Architecture, Governance and Conflict in Iran

Supervisors: Dr. Pier Vittorio Aureli, Dr. Adrian Lahoud

The thesis investigates the project of Housing as a governance strategy and an instrument for initiating social, political and economic reforms in Iran. How can the intimate space of domesticity structure a political consensus at the scale of a nation? In order to answer this question the thesis begins with an archeology of housing and domesticity in Iran.Most thoroughly it examines the Mehr program, a contemporary state-driven project that resisted the instabilities of the real-estate market in 2007 and proposed for the building of 4 million housing units. The Mehr program targeted the low income families who lived in urban centers and relocate them to new-built settlements where they were offered a share of justice: a house. Through this process, the most segregated class of the society were gradually unified in their dependency and gratitude to the government. The thesis will examine both the instrumentality of Mehr in establishing homogeneity as well as the economic processes that enabled the advent of the project in the first place. The prospects of such project of housing in relation to shifting governmental conditions are at the moment unclear. With the 2013 elections in Iran and the shift in the regime’s agendas from socialism to neoliberalism, the political instrumentality of Mehr has become obsolete. Mehr settlements are scattered across the country and in the peripheries of large cities. Due to the dominant desert ecology of Iran most these areas are barren landscapes. The programmatically homogenous (residential) nature of these settlements and their separation from urban zones requires long hours of commute for the settlers on a daily base as well as regular infrastructural maintenance from the state. Despite such
issues, an estimate of 8 million Iranians have been mobilized across the country via this program. It is to these masses, that the thesis attempts to take the uncertain future of Mehr settlements as the possibility for an architectural project. The thesis proposes a reform from within the settlements through a set of architectural, urban and territorial interventions. The aim is to transform Mehr, a project that seeks uniformity and consensus into a new ground for nurturing conflicts and differences. In doing so, the thesis questions and challenges the relationship between governmental powers and the architecture of housing.

Samaneh Moafi is an Iranian/Australian architect and researcher. She completed her MArch with honors in the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). Moafi has worked with prestigious art and architecture practices in Australia. She has also taught at Universities such at UTS, the Architectural Association and the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

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Samaneh Moafi