Global Urban Research Unit


Bahram Enayati

Connecting Urban Planning, Management and Open Space in Seismic Zone.



Tehran, the capital of Iran, is located in an area of high seismic risk and seismologists believe that a strong earthquake will affect Tehran in the near future. With a population of nearly eight and a half million, it is estimated that probably a large number of people would lose their lives. Given this unfortunate possibility, and that the majority of buildings are built directly next to one another, any lateral force on one building could have:

  • a destructive impact on the others
  • on the network of connections
  • on the neighbourhood as a whole.

A lack of open spaces in many residential and commercial areas will make immediate post-event organised responses, coordination, decision-making and resourcing difficult and challenging. These spaces may be considered for allocation of tasks such as providing emergency shelter, water and medical supplies, public health and sanitation, and housing replacement. Therefore, the question is whether Tehran is ready for the challenges, disaster mitigation and preparedness, response and recovery.

This research is focused on the interaction between physical systems and social systems to lessen societal exposure to the risks of earthquakes. In doing so, first the approaches to integrated disaster and urban planning from other contexts were studied. After the selection of an assessment tool, the spatial, physical and social vulnerability of Tehran and the case study area were studied followed by the analysis of their risks and capacity.

A detailed field study within the Khazaneh neighbourhood included estimating earthquake damage and casualties based on probable damage ratio and population distribution, and studying and developing criteria for identification and location of safety evacuation routes, shelter and other emergency utilities (hospitals, fire stations, etc) in urban areas.

It was concluded that earthquake protection systems are now a critical issue for the enhancement of seismic reliability of this urban region. Preparing disaster reduction strategies in Tehran require comprehensive disaster measures to be implemented in:

  • urban development plans
  • open space designs
  • urban management
  • the building industry

to enhance disaster prevention capabilities and to minimise and control disasters throughout the Greater Tehran Area.