Tehran : 21.097494 kilometers proposes to dream a future where the city’s most iconic street, the longest in the Middle East becomes the stage of a Half Marathon. As far as this seems far from the actual situation of the car oriented society, polluted city and its restricted public space, the proposal stays confident in the force of collective dreams and it's agency toward change.
Tehran : 21.097494 kilometers
1. Unwalkable Tehran
While many cities are getting rid of their heavy car infrastructures of twentieth century to leave space for pedestrian metrics and public space, Tehran celebrates inauguration of its 11 kilometers multi-story highway, passing through residential neighborhoods. With 4million cars and immense, snaking highways, walking and strolling around Tehran is a challenge.
The unwelcoming physical space for the pedestrian, and restrictions on appearance and behavior imposed by state, have discouraged public life and limited the presence of pedestrian as the protagonist of public space. The city’s severe air pollution on the other hand that is said to be the cause of death of 27 people per day makes the walk less attractive and less advisable.
2. A Spatial Capital: Valiasr Ave.
The longest street in the Middle East runs through the heart of Tehran. Extending from north to south, it bisects the city into its eastern and western halves. The century old street and its 60,000 sycamore trees have recently been added to the national heritage list. This garden route is the backbone of the Iranian capital and has been the stage of many political manifestations and historical moments of the city.
It is a coincidence that length of Valiasr from train station in the south to foot of Alborz Mountains in the north, passing through the city and mirroring its socio-spatial structure, corresponds neatly to a Half Marathon! (though not exactly 21.097494 kilometers)
3. A Collective Dream: Tehran’s Half Marathon
"De même que une société est incapable de faire ce dont les membres ne rêve pas, elle ne peut cesser de faire ce qui fait partie de leur rêves.”
A marathon is a participatory process - not only in how it is performed, but also in its preparation. Thinking of a marathon in Tehran presupposes a different city, where well-being is a priority, where pedestrians can meet, breathe and run, where collective action is imaginable and possible, where men and women can blend into a single acting body and where difference is a source of richness rather than segregation.
To think of Tehran's half-marathon is to think of civil society demanding its democratic rights and its desire for a more liveable city, running from one end of the city to the other, to convey the victory of the pedestrian over cars - and of the people over power.