Mesocity is an experimental research project on Tehran in collaboration with the post graduate degree ADM led by Chris Younès at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecure in Paris.

The research is focused on Tehran’s derelict irrigation system, the qanat, an underground water network abandoned in the sixties, at the wake of modernization. The system fell apart when the country adopted western models of land ownership. The major reform consisted in the abolishment of a type of feudalism, where farmers were co-dependant to the land owners.  Because the infrastructure depends on the run of a certain physical distance  before water can be accessed, the fragmentation of land impeded its collective nature.


The qanat is a passive water device that collects melted snow at the foot of the desert mountain and directs it through underground canals using gravity. It is one of the most sustainable water irrigation systems in the world as it only sources dynamic aquifers. Tehran is one of the most polluted cities in the world with 27 deaths a day due to poor air quality. In fact it’s a legacy of the American “Motorcity”, with its 300 km inner city highway grid planned by LA architect Victor Gruen.

Looking at the qanats isn’t nostalgic. Making historical layers structural is a way to look at the city as a palimpsest, an alternative to Modernism’s obsession with order and the new. Furthermore, the qanat isn’t subject to property boundaries, linking different neighborhoods together, it enables a collective reading of the city. The workshop will look at how the reappraisal of this ancestral infrastructure could serve to fertilize public space, create productive landscapes, and bring creative oxygen for a highly polluted and fragmented metropolis.


Inviting the local art scene. HydroCity is inviting artists to talk and think about Tehran along with architects and other specialists. Not involving this energy in re-thinking the city would be a missed opportunity. Art weaves together collective awareness and memory, artists are invited as a consultative force able to enrich the sensitive understanding and imaginary dimension of the city.

The project is conducted through workshops open to students and professionals, along with invited  specialists from the fields of:  architecture, urban planning   art, landscape, hydrology, geology, and other relevant fields pertaining to the to the city.