The design principles of traditional urban cores in Iran : a case study of Qatâr-chyân quarter, Sanandaj
Urban and architectural artefacts of the traditional environment can be seen as important imprints of human activity which have evolved over many centuries according to strong socio-cultural and environmental rationalities. This means that the morphology and spatial patterns of traditional cities have gradually developed to satisfy the cultural needs of their populations and, at the same time, to respond to their surrounding environment. This defines the man-made environment as the content of meaning, especially when it is considered in its mutual relationships with the surrounding environment and in the context of history, because man tends to dwell when he can experience the environment as meaningful. The traditional urban cores are considered here as the materialised form of human thoughts, skills and resources which created functional, meaningful and identifiable spaces in relation to society, time and place. This research focus on the traditional Islamic-Iranian-Kurdish city of Sanandaj situated within the majestic mountain range of Zagros in the west of Iran, the birth place of Kurdish culture. At the macro-level of investigation, the thesis analyses the setting, historical formation and morphology of the city as a whole as part of an investigation of the socio-spatial qualities of its spaces and places, and a deeper understanding of how its built environment has responded to the physical environment and changing socio-political circumstances. Within the city of Sanandaj, the quarter of Qatar-chyän (representative of the city's quarters) is selected for further micro-level analysis of place structure in respect to the social dimensions of the place. At this level, the realms of public/semi-public/private domains are analysed to make clear the interplay between these spheres which shaped the city and organized the society, as leading points to an understanding of the shaping design principles of the city in respect of Kurdish culture. As much of the literature concerning the Islamic/Iranian cities tends to focus on the male domain and taking into account that women in Kurdish society have a distinctive role, in this research, the woman's domain is highlighted and the main points are organised in line with the role of women in the social life of the selected quarter. Within studies of Islamic/Iranian cities, little attention has been paid to the concept of Kurdish cities. For this reason, this research opens up this concept by adopting an interpretive-historical research to make clear the features of the built form which are particular characteristics of the place concerning the Kurdish habits and traditions. Various approaches to traditional built form are reviewed to pave the way for a methodological inquiry within which multiple methods are employed i. e. archive historical document analysis, interviews, observation and photographic surveys. The data generaatnedd through the fieldwork comprises old photos, aerial photos taken at different times, sequence maps, private and public archives (transcripts, family chronology and travellers descriptions), historical books, interviews and large numbers of analytical diagrams. The findings are the shaping design principles which characterise the urban character of the selected Kurdish city as distinguished from other Islamic-Iranian cities, as a basis for further research in the realm of Kurdish understanding of built form. Within this specific context, the study has tried to uncover the process of city formation to explain how urban form in a particular context responded to the environmental and socio-political determinants of time. At the same time, it has tried to understand the nature of Kurdish settlements by paying attention to the points of similarity and difference within the Islamic and Iranian contexts. Apart from these points, some of the findings concerning the design principles of the city were recognised as indigenous rules embedded in the structure of the traditional core which can help designers to reconcile the traditional and modern urban architecture by applying these principles in the City's conservation plan or new developments plans in the suburbs of the City. These comprise; the process of city formation; its overall structure and the course of the principal route as the backbone of the City; the concept of centre rooted in the notion of line and point; the concept of mound cities concerning the character of Kurdish culture which has strong responsiveness to the Genius Loci and features of the terrain; the sceno-graphic approach to the street pattern; the concept of the Maidänche; the self-reliant character perceived in the administrative structure of the selected quarter.