ISSN: 2717-4417

Document Type : Research Paper



The Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (the eighth Shia Imam), located in the historical and foremost central part of Mashhad, has been the main factor in Mashhad’s developments, physical spread, economic and population growth. The large public investments and the greater tendency for investors in the peripheral region surrounding Imam Reza’s holy shrine, called Samen region, lead the shrine complex to be one of the most superb and glorious tomb complexes in the world. In fact, the specific characteristics of the region cause it to attract many tourists and pilgrims and as a result attract many investors, generating high income. The consequences of large private and public developments and many investment opportunities can be seen in the shape and form of the region and even the whole of the city. To study the form and shape of a city or a city region, various factors including social, physical, environmental, economic factors should be considered. Because of the religious and spiritual nature of Samen region, the religious forces have had important roles in its directions of development. In addition, having high value investment opportunities for public and private investors, economic forces have also greatly interfered in the urban development of the area. Thus, amongst the factors describing urban shape and form, the two factors of religion (spirituality) and economy (materialism) have had the largest impact on the Samen region of Mashhad. This paper aims to find the role of spiritual and materialistic values in the shape and form of Samen region since 1920 (the first Pahlavi era). In fact, it is supposed that the convergence of spiritual and materialistic forces in Samen region have considerably influenced Samen’s physical structure. These forces which appear to be naturally in conflict have made the final shape of Samen region a contrast to the identity and needs of local and former residents. Therefore, it tries to find the religious and economic values in Samen region and assess how the values interact with each other. First, the effect of spiritual and sacred values as well as economic and materialistic values on the form and shapes of cities, in particular holy cities, were investigated. Second, urban changes (changes in city shape and form) in Samen region were analysed according to spiritual and materialistic factors. The research methodology used was qualitative descriptive analysis in order to obtain answers to the research questions. In addition, to prove the claims, it used existing documents concerning Astan Ghods and various trustees of Imam Reza holy shrine in the current century. Moreover, the new urban development plan, related publications, historical maps and pictures were used to describe the changes in urban form and shape. The results show that these two factors as conflicting forces have had enormous influence on the urban physical and land use changes in Samen region. Thus, the final urban shape and form of Samen region is the result of these two continual opposing forces. Finally, the competition square used for shows, exponential growth of magnificent courtyards and glorious buildings of the holy shrine complex, splendid commercial and high-rise residential buildings surrounding the complex have led to the retreat and exclusion of former tradespeople, residents and entrepreneurs of the region, in particular low-income and medium-income groups of citizens.


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