Carter Manny Award

  • An Architecture of Uncertainty: Narratives of the Built Environment Under Economic Sanctions in Tehran
    Razieh Ghorbani

Speculative housing for spectral residents: luxury apartments built for investment, 2017, Tehran, Iran. Photo: Razieh Ghorbani.

Razieh Ghorbani, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Architecture, is the recipient of the 2017 Carter Manny Research Award.

This dissertation looks into the relationship between economic sanctions and the built environment in Iran. Sanctions, while well understood in terms of politics and economics, have not been studied as part of everyday Iranian culture. In contemporary Iran, a vital part of the “culture of sanctions” is experienced materially, in architectural terms. This culture transformed the way architects, developers, and ordinary builders engage with buildings as spaces of investment and habitation while exercising new political rhetoric around discourses of modernity and globalization. This dissertation argues that sanctions work culturally and spatially simultaneously to close and open media. Though sanctions may obstruct the architectural field to certain material flows, they also open it to new cultural economies and political aspirations. This means that sanctions cannot simply be turned on and off. They have persisting social influences that should be studied even after their removal.

Razieh Ghorbani is a PhD candidate in the Department of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her MArch and MS degrees from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Her research explores the everyday politics of architecture and construction in the Middle East, focusing on how architects and other players in the building industry recalibrate the boundaries of their practice under specific economic and political situations. Through both archival and ethnographic analysis, she studies the social life of buildings as artifacts, spaces, words, and dreams. In 2016 she was awarded an Al-Falah Fellowship in Islamic Studies from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley.