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Modern Heritage to Future Legacy: Conservation and Conversion of Modern Industrial Heritage Sites as an Integral Part of Urban Development in the Middle East: The Case of Iran and Egypt


Applicants: Dr. habil. PD. Heike Oevermann (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Dr. Hassan Elmouelhi (Technische Universität Berlin), Martin Meyer, M.Sc. (Technische Universität Berlin)

Project partner:
Prof. Dr. Mohammad Mahdavinejad (Tarbiat Modares University, Iran)

Relics of modern architecture and urbanism are playing a crucial role in shaping new urban identities that integrate historic structures and search for more comprehensive outlook on quality of lives. In 2001, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) and DOCOMOMO (Working Party for the Documentation and Conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the Modern Movement) launched a joint program for the documentation and promotion of the built heritage of the 19th and 20th century, recognizing their cultural value. The vast majority of cities in the Middle East experienced major growth periods in this period, partly under foreign rule. Functional and industrial structures especially bear witness to this highly productive and politically complex intertwining of the flow of resources and ideas between what is now termed the Global North and Global South. Yet they remain a neglected part of urban heritage. Changes in global and national economic structure have made many sites redundant while their pragmatic and non-representative status has precluded them from entering mainstream debates so far. This left room for appropriation and interpretation but also created challenges:

  • changes in usage patterns are creating vacancy and physical neglect
  • high risk of being torn down for real estate ventures
  • legal tools for their protection or conservation are either non-existent or not implemented
  • financial incentives for protection or refurbishment do not exist
  • public forums for discussing architecture and cultural identities are rare or limited to experts

This research project intends to contribute to the growing field of research on modern industrial heritage in the countries of Iran and Egypt to better understand aspects of this transcultural heritage and to build local capacities for successful participatory conversion and adaptive re-use through a series of workshops involving post-graduate students, junior and senior researchers and local experts.