Towards a Democratic Process in Urban Planning and Design; Assessing the Status of Citizens’ Involvement in Urban Plans and Projects in Iran

Document Type : Research Article


1 Associate Professor of Urban Planning, Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, Imam Khomeini International University, Qazvin, Iran.

2 Master of Urban Design, Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, Imam Khomeini International University, Qazvin, Iran.


Problem Statement: it seems that in current times, many of the urban designs and plans in Iran have totalitarian, centralized, and monopolistic essences. This condition is predictably originated from the absence of deliberative and collaborative democracies; in light of the foregoing, the inefficiencies of the stages of presentation and implementation have led to neglecting the citizenship rights and the public preferences. Hence, citizens have little social responsibilities for the negative consequences of inefficient urban practices. In addition, an appropriate context is not provided for them to affect the various steps of urban processes, claiming their rights to the city, and expressing their opinions. In this spirit, the urban projects lose their basic figures in providing stability and promoting the role of people in urban development and management. Hence, the impetus behind this study is to improve the urban democracy in the process of urban planning and design.
Purpose: this study attempts to investigate the reasons for the lack of democratic involvement by the citizens in the process of urban development and management, as well as to find some solutions to remove this widespread deep-rooted social dilemma.
Research hypothesis: the realization of democracy and actual participation of citizens in the process of developing the urban spaces can lead to more accurate and efficient decision makings, as well as more successful implementation of urban plans and projects.
Research method: this article was conducted through content analysis and comparative methods. While studying the pillars of the democratic system, the methods of democratic participation of citizens in the processes of urban development and management in Iran was studied regarding the Principles of the Critical Theory. In fact, an effort was made to provide a platform for presenting the findings and suggested solutions through the process of criticizing and analysing the current situation of the Iranian urban plans and designs along with comparing them with the necessary elements for the realization of democratic and people-friendly urban processes. This should be stated that the data collection method was based on interviews with people, studying documents, and also field observations.
Conclusion: results indicate that Dilemmas in the Iranian urban system have been originated from the non-democratic factors, such as the lack of participation, the lack of all-inclusiveness, the violation of citizenship rights and urban justice, illegitimate urban laws, inflexibility, the downfall of pluralism, and etc. Hence, through scheming criteria such as the diversity of opinions, all-inclusiveness, flexibility, forming NGOs, the citizen education and discourse, diversity and respecting the citizen’s rights, etc., these processes can be democratized and also a platform for the emergence of a comprehensive type of a democratic urban planning and design would be materialized; a process which strengthens the urban democracy and honors the position of people, not as the problem but as the solution, by creating equal opportunities in a disinterested fashion.


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