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Abadan: planning and architecture under the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company

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Industry and urbanization were brought to south-west Iran when large quantities of oil were struck there in the early years of this century. This paper explores the development of Abadan from these beginnings to the 1950s, and particularly the housing and planning forms adopted by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and its architect James M. Wilson. Abadan was in effect a colonial company town whose early development combined spacious bungalow compounds for British expatriate workers, barracklike lines of huts for labour recruited locally and from India, and a rapidly overcrowded ‘native town’ under local municipal control. The Company used Wilson’s expertise in an attempt to answer the physical problems created by the growth of Abadan between the wars and to deflect pressure exerted both by Iranian nationalists and the British government. In the garden suburb of Bawarda he created a model solution that used planning and housing form to represent ethnic and social harmony under the discreet paternal benevolence of the Company. This, however, was inappropriate to Abadan’s problems and quickly eclipsed by the political events that led to the Company’s expulsion in 1951.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1997-07-01

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