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Vali-e Asr Street

Date of Submission: 01/02/2019
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization
State, Province or Region:
Coordinates: E52 23 51 - N35 39 33 to E52 23 51 - N35 48 24
Ref.: 6387
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Vali-e Asr Street is one of the main urban elements of Tehran City in the north-south direction. The starting point of the axis is Rah-ahan (railway) Square (52 23 51 E- 35 39 33 N) and its finishing point is Tajrish Square (52 23 51 E- 35 4824 N. Rah-ahan Square has an altitude of 1117m above
sea level which amounts to 1615m in Tajrish Square.

Emergence of Vali-e Asr Street should be regarded as heralding the start of modernism in the history of Iranian urban planning and architecture. The street as one of the lifelines of Tehran was first drawn in a map by Engineer Abdolghaffar Najmolmolk in the year 1309 LAH (1891 AD). It was a path going through gardens in a south to north direction. The period was concurrent with the early years of structural alterations which had begun halfway through Naseroddin Shah's rule from the 1280s LAH on i.e. when urban planning underwent changes as one of the manifestations of cultural developments. Consistent with such changes, big gardens around Tehran which were built based on a geometrical design, became included in the urban fabric and Vali-e Asr axis Street considered as part of the geometrical axes within the gardens.

Old residential hubs in the northern parts of Tehran such as Tajrish and Vanak both regarded as historical villages near Tehran are related to existing capacities of the extension of Vali-e Asr from within city limits to its outskirts. But the main period of development in Vali-e Asr dates back to the start of the present century SAH which was simultaneous with the toppling of Qajar dynasty and the formation of a new bureaucratic regime. At this time, Tehran expanded to outside the Qajar limits at a fast pace. The new regime transferred royal palaces and administrative offices from Golestan Palace to Marmar Palace and its governmental compound near Vali-e Asr Street. On the other hand, it avoided usage of summer residences of Qajar dynasty in Shemiran only to build a summer mansion of its own near Darband called Saad Abad Complex which is regarded as another core for the development of Vali-e Asr Street. Linkage of Saad Abad with Marmar Palace was the goal of Reza Shah, founder of the new regime i.e. the shortest possible distance from the northernpalace to the southern one.

This route passed through Shemiran gardens, barren fields between Tehran and Shemiran, Yusef Abad, Abbas Abad and Behjat Abad ending at its southernmost tip inside the old Qajar town.

The distance from Shemiran as far as the Qajar town (Tehran) was called a road inside the town, the southern part of Vali-e Asr Street went through gardens too but they had new street linings. This was actually the starting point of the axis where the railway station and its related offices stood. So, it can be concluded that during the years 1303-17 SAH, the axis took shape along a line linking Rah-ahan and Shemiran squares and after the 1320s SAH, the city strengthened itself around this structure.

Developments occurring after 1320s on Vali-e Asr axis are mostly qualitative rather than quantitative. Construction activities in lands on the either side of the axis from Mahmudieh in Shemiran to Yusef Abad were the most significant body changes in the vicinity of the axis since 1320-50 SAH. Vali-e Asr as part of the urban structure is now the receiver of a wide variety of cultural, recreational, educational, economical, commercial, administrative, shopping, medical, religious and residential functions. In fact, it serves as a base for recording the citizens' memoirs. Although at first Vali-e Asr street took shape as the link between Tehran and Shemiran and mostly had the role of an urban pathway but a mixture of structural, natural, historical and functional characteristics caused it to consolidate itself not only as a mere pathway but also more importantly as a valuable destination. Therefore, it can be said that Vali-e Asr is a linear urban space.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Generally, citizens' affection for an urban space originates from their good memories. In fact, the city acts like a vessel in which such memoirs take shape. Vali-e Asr Street is one of these spaces and probably the most prominent of them all in Iran.
Vali-e Asr Street is a place of which all Tehran residents have at least one sweet memory whether in their childhood or in older age. Vali-e Asr sidewalk remains the widest of them all after so many years overshadowing the importance of its roadway. As a result, from the beginning of its formation Vali-e Asr served not as a path in order to reach a certain destination but was itself a destination, which answers different needs of citizens. Moreover, Vali-e Asr is the place for forgetting your sorrows, a place for worshipping, purchasing and window shopping, studying, a place for seclusion and solitude or vice versa, socialization with friends and enjoying the company of other people and to remember that you are in your own hometown.

The intellectual people enjoy it more than anyone else but common people also like frequenting its shopping centers and businessmen are vigorously active in certain parts of the street. The largest park of the country as well as several cinemas, theaters and music centers, also the book market of Tehran which is located close to Vali-e Asr intersection with Enqelab Street, several universities, so on and so forth are located in the vicinity of Vali-e Asr Street. The idea of creating a gardenstreet which originates from Safavide era, had a great impact in the town-planning and urban design of the street, where broad sidewalks, tall plane trees, flowing streams as well as the attractive and charming Alborz foothills all have made Vali-e Asr a vital and green urban space.

Vali-e Asr has a length of 17.2 km extending from plane to mountain, this consideres as on of the longest streets in the World and the longest in the middle east, which prove it as of outstanding Universal Values. The deliberate choice of location, as it is located on the flat plains of the south
and ascend to the mountainous area of Alborz Mountrange create a slight difference in the climatic condition of the neighborhoods which is a unique quality in similar cities in the World. The old part in the south section has a historic structure with tokens belonging to Qajar era until the modern
times found in it where each respect the identity of the other and the street as a whole. But the old part in the north section has a dominantly natural structure (Parkway junction as far as Tajrish Square) enjoying lush gardens and abundant Qanats that feed the streams flowing along the street
sides. Benefiting from both underground water and precipitations is of other unique qualities of Tehran city within the semi- arid and arid land of Iran, providing a mild weather and a setting for a comfort zone, rarely be found in the region. The younger parts of the axis contain signs of cultural developments that have taken place during the recent 90 years.

Criterion (ii): Vali-e Asr street is the best example which witnesses the persistent exercises of creating the concept of Garden- street as a destination of an urban area form Safavid era up to the modern time. Variety of Architectural styles from traditional to modern and eclectic is a representation of eastern and western values synthesis in a specific geographical point, which carries a true definition of an architectural and spatial place. Currently, Vali-e Asr street is considered as one of the unique urban areas within the Iranian and Islamic cities in the World.

Criterion (iii): The idea of linking a plain within the urban fabric of Tehran downtown to the summer countries of the city within the mount foots by use of a long linear urban street, along with the deliberate and creative choice of the location conforming with the natural and topographical qualities of the area, historic infrastructures such as Qanat, natural backgrounds and landscapes, valuable architectural landmarks and historic monuments, creation of a linear plane tree route (so-called Chenarestan), as well as its lengthy dimensions are of the unique qualities of the street, transforming the area to one of the unique and distinctive urban areas in the World.

Criterion (iv): Vali-e Asr is a magnificent sample of a Historic Architectural Museum, where sets of exquisite Architectural Monuments, from Qajar era to the present time are embraced. Qajar era is a significant initiation in the structural development of the street. Variety of Architectural Styles, i.e.
Qajar, Pahlavi, internationally inspired styles, modern, postmodern, etc. in the different sequences of the street are established deliberately and designedly on the natural topographical structure of the city with respect to the wholesome identity of the urban fabric and social qualities, which
provide a unique significance that can be found in the region and throughout the World.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Vali-e Asr Street has been developed and expanded with the passage of time in different styles from Qajar era until today. Without doubt, taking into consideration a variety of dimensions at present it is the most important street in Iran and the region. Based on requirements of the time, the street covers diverse functions and has been built in harmony with the nature of Tehran. Its integrity can be reviewed concerning functional, structural and visual dimensions.

Functional Integrity
The combined commercial, administrative, service and residential functions of the street have continued since its formation until now. But in some parts, there has been gradual overcoming for example commercial or service functions over other functions in accordance with urban
requirements. Fortunately, the functional aspect of the street which acts on urban, national and international scales still continues.

Visual Integrity
Advertising boards and urban facilities have had negative effects on the street view but guidelines for their removal have been drafted. A facade improvement plan has been prepared by the Zibasazi Organization of the municipality of Tehran and it is to be executed on entire length of Vali-e Asr
Street. Fortunately plane trees as an urban garden have played a key role in the beauty of the street. Additionally, a small number of trees which had problems were replanted last year by the Organization of Parks and Green Space of Tehran.

Structural Integrity
Various parts of the street with their different characters and identities have kept their structura properties. In fact, the southern and northern segments have taken their identity from adjacent neighborhoods but the middle segment with its cultural, service, administrative and commercial
centers serves as an urban destination.

Authenticity of Vali-e Asr Street can be studied in terms of design, setting, materials and function which are reviewed in brief here :

Authenticity in Design
No change in the urban planning of Vali-e Asr Street concerning its wholeness and content of formation has been seen. Therefore, the initial concept has been followed in using the natural topography of the city, connecting southern and northern districts of the city, layout of lined trees, as well as usage of water resources and Qanats.

Authenticity in Material
Because Vali-e Asr Street has always served as a place for displaying various architectural styles, historical building materials have remained intact in its historical parts but modern materials have been used in its other parts which are occasionally at odds with values of the street. So in the managerial plan special regulations have been considered aimed at their modification.

Authenticity in Setting
Authenticity of Vali-e Asr Street concerning its setting and positioning in a north to south direction of Tehran has not been changed. Vali-e Asr Street has experienced many ups and downs during its development and completion but fortunately has managed to keep its generating values at the
original place of its setting.

Authenticity in Function
Authenticity of mixed functions of the street regarding trade, administrative, residential as well as combined cultural, collegial, theatrical, recreational and commercial dimensions continues. In fact, as a popular meeting place, Vali-e Asr Street is still considered as one of the most important urban
spaces in the capital and the whole country.

Comparison with other similar properties

Vali-e Asr street can be compared to several Iranian and international Streets. The comparison will be based on the Outstanding Values of the street and its specific qualities, namely :
Length, Direction, Function, Passageway/ Roadway, Planting pattern, Squares and venues, Historical, political and social events, Monuments, Paving patterns, Sake of construction, Urban quarters, Social clas, Urban destination and other Values and significance.
The following streets will be compared based on the specific similarities and differences :

- Iranian Streets

Sepah street
Sepah Street was constructed as the first designed street of Iran in Safavid era. In the reigning period of Shah tahmasb I in Safavid era lots of houses, gardens and edifices added to the sides of the street. It extended to the southern parts and reached to the Kohanbar graveyard in Shah safi
reigning period. In Nassereddin Shah time, hostels, Telegraph center and post office added to the street.

Charbagh boulevard
Chahar Bagh is the main boulevard of Isfahan. It was built as a part of larger urban project undertaken between 1596 and 1597 by the Safavid Shah Abbas I. On both sides of the Boulevard there are a number of late Qajar and early Pahlavi buildings (respectively -pre and post- World War I). The importance of the monuments along the path makes an architectural museum out of this significant historical boulevard.

- International Streets

Champs– Élysées Street
Chams- Élysées is the most known and prestigious street which was and is the schema of the most significant streets all around the world. Originally the street was filled with market gardens till 1616 when Marie de Medici wished to extend the axis of the Tuileries Garden with an avenue of trees. The avenue was transformed by the landscape architect “André Le Nôtre” in 1667 according the the wishes of Louis XIV and named “Grand Cours” in 1670. In 1709 it took the name of Champs- Élysées. By 1724 the Tuileries Garden axis and the avenue were connected and extended. By the late 18th century, it had become a fashionable avenue. In 1828, the avenue became a part of city property; footpaths, fountains and gas lighting were added. In 1994 the sidewalks were widened.

Bagdad Street
Bagdad street initially constructed to connect two zones together in byzantine era. In Ottoman era some shrines has built along the path for the usage of passengers and city residents. During the rule of The second Abdolhamid (1876-1909) the lots along the street has bought for the construction of
magnificent edifices which are partly remained yet. The name of this street dates back to the reclaiming of Bagdad by Fourth Morad sultan in 1638.

Paseo dela reforma Avenue
This avenue Designed by Ferdinand Von Rosenzweig in 1860s inspired by boulevards of Europe such as Vienna Ringstrasse and Chams Élysées in Paris. The government has started a renewal program since 2003.

Nanjing Road
The road traced back to 1845 when it was called Park Lane and was stretched from Bund to He’nan road. In 1854 there is a development phase road and another one on 1862. After word war II the name of street changed to Nanjing road. In 2000 the road renovated to be a pedestrian street.
Orchard road Officially the road was cut in the 1830s. By in 1846 the houses spread and reached up to Tank road and till 1860s it had a great number of private houses. In early 20th the road presented the appearance of a wall shaded avenue to English mansion.

Habib bourguiba avenue
The road was originally a poor quality road but during 1890-1892, it became the playground for the city’s elite. Gradually became more famous after the addition of important private buildings in 1930s. The street changed to a sixty meter wide with two unpaved roads on both sides and a median strip of Ficus trees planting till 2001.

Chowringhee street
In the 1717 Chowringhee was a hamlet but after the strengthening of British power for the sake of city extension and moving to Maidan it grew larger. In the mid eighteenth magnificent houses built by Englishmen. After Indian independence it’s name changed to Jawaherlal Nehru which is derived from the first prime minister’s name.

Kurfürstendamm boulevard
Kurfürstendamm boulevard dates back to the 1500s which originally constructed to connect royal palace and the hunting lodge in the “Grunewald” forest by Prince Joachim II. The boulevard remained the intact till 1875 then widened to the breadth of 53 m. It suffered from severe damages during World War II. Then renovated and restored to some extent.