The health route was built on a three-kilometer stretch parallel to the Dry River by the gardens of Qasr al-Dasht in Shiraz. After constructing the subway line along the dry river, the site had become a place for construction waste depots. So, it had become an abandoned wasteland that had also lost its trees. From the beginning, the project was supposed to fulfill a responsibility: to fill the gap of an urban recreational space focusing on community health and revive the capacities of daily life affinity with nature and the city to reintegrate the separated social and ecological contexts. Besides, Iran has faced widespread poverty and economic pressures in recent years. So the crucial necessity to have an urban health and recreation center is well uncovered: An inclusively planned and creatively designed park. Therefore, to develop such a place that functions on an urban scale, the designers must consider this necessity, As the Covid-19 pandemic reiterated.
The health route is the most complete and diverse sports park in Iran, which has provided all services for free. According to reports from the Iranian parliament, half of the country’s population was below the poverty line last year, which means that many citizens simply can’t afford private gyms to improve their health, thermo specifically during the pandemic. Furthermore, daily life goes some way where there is no time and motivation for these activities in these challenging times. So, the designers had to encounter these challenges:
1- How can this priceless part of daily life be repaid to it via creating space attractions, and how can a sports park provide vast urban experiences?
2- How can more minorities and marginalized groups be included and reintegrated into social life?
3- What is the relationship between the project and nature? How can this relationship affect the morbid construction fever in cities?
To face these challenges, the design intents were formulated as such: Regenerating the dead spaces along the river
, Employing the area along the river due to proper access and proximity to the main structural urban ecological elements (gardens and rivers), Creating opportunities for all kinds of sports and free activities for all age and gender groups, Creating a suitable environmental substrate for flora and fauna of the region, Improving the quality of life of the people of the city and maximizing the interaction of people.
The three-kilometer route is designed in three zones. The first zone is 1.2 km from the beginning. It had a parking lot at the start where citizens came to in their cars to watch the roaring water on rainy days: a piece of evidence to the wasted quality of the space and its potential to be a beautiful and desirable place. The designers then moved the parking lot to the other side of the project and placed it juxtaposed to the river. They also provided a circular platform which provides a panoramic view of the city to enhance the mountain-river-trees promenade experience.
The second zone is a one-kilometer route adjacent to a residential area. The entrance to this section was also a parking lot from Ma’aliabad Street, an excellent site to design an urban plaza – a place for holding social and ritual events that the city lacks. Due to the subway tunnel, it was impossible to plant trees in this section, so a canopy with a light metal frame and fabric was designed.
The third zone, the 800-meter path, is the most desirable one regarding greenery. It is located next to the old gardens and trees. Designers continued the trail along with a formerly undefined and unused space and planted new sheltering vegetations that provided green hiking and cycling corridors. The appropriate width of this zone made it possible to accommodate various sports activities: ping-pong tables, suitable parkour obstacles that are also used as seats, dodgeball, football, etc., with some platforms for those who rest and watch. There was also a construction waste depot where planting was impossible, so it became a skating rink. The park is unique in terms of the variety of sports it accommodates, such as Volleyball, dodgeball, skating, cycling, boxing, fitness, etc. A unique, active, and dynamic place for all.
Everyday urban life is about mobility: constantly moving between origins and destinations. There is often no time to have quality time along the path or even nothing to care for. Despite these difficulties, fun and joy and seizing the moment is an inevitable element of the urban pop culture in Shiraz, which its people are most famous for. So to speak, the route is a place of passage, promenade, and joy. Pedestrian and bicycle paths are separated, reach the plaza junctions, place the seating platforms in front of each other, and set the stage for various interactions and spectacles. Possibilities to replace the lost times of the day with quality time in a time when we fatally lack it.
The health route is between the residential area (Shahid) and the commercial area (Ma’aliabad). This means the potential to turn the daily passage into a quality space for walking and a place that transforms the wasted time of everyday traffic into quality time. The former wasteland has now economically regenerated the adjacent gardens. They have a market to sell their products nowadays, thanks to this development.
Marginalized groups such as women, the disabled, and the underprivileged were among the project’s priorities. Slopes, ramps, and furniture are adapted for the disabled. There is enough space in children’s playgrounds for mothers to monitor and interact. Mothers interacting while children play is a well-known practice in Iran, and the designers took this to provide interactive seats. The public space is bright and safe for women. One of the adjacent gardens is dedicated to their activities. This is an inevitable issue in Islamic countries. To overlook such a place means depriving a considerable portion of the population of their rights to the city: An obstacle in most of the city’s recreational sites.
Diverse and attractive spaces with a wide range of activities and free services, with easy access to cheap public transportation, have made the complex an affordable and desirable place for all classes.
Likewise, urban furniture in the project is ergonomically suited for the elderly and children.
Most furniture and seats are recycled from the project wastes to reduce construction costs and environmentally harmful waste. Likewise, the former lamentable asphalt track in the area has been preserved, redesigned, and reintegrated into the park as a jogging track. The main irrigation pool is redesigned as a pond to revitalize the ecosystem, and the pond collects rainwater, minimizing the need for over-watering. The irrigation system allows trees to be planted with various flowers and leaves for different seasons. Due to the city’s water shortage, a combination of trees and canopies has been used for shading, and designers have chosen new vegetation as resilient as possible.
Consider this image: a dry river, the monsoon season, and cars parked, with people watching the roaring water. Every year you happen to see it for a while in the heart of Qasr al-Dasht gardens in Shiraz, and this is a compact image of the project’s context. A sadly abandoned space by the river, used as a parking lot, was turned into a joyful place, reconnecting nature, water, mountains, trees, and everyday life.
Gardens near Iranian cities have had a delightful presence and are often integrated into urban development. The merge sometimes puts them at risk: gentrification’s threats and deterioration for commercial purposes. While the death of every tree on the Central Plateau of Iran is catastrophic, constructing a project next to the gardens must consider preserving and protecting every grass and leaf. The route has prioritized environmental sustainability at all stages. Enhancing the abandoned fields, the gardens have also become active to interact with the attracted population. A process that will benefit the area and turn dead zones into opportunities to link everyday domestic life to the fate of nature and the beauty of the city.
Project Manager: Hamidreza Esmaili
Landscape Architects: Zahra Dalvand, Maryam Mohammadian, Shaghayegh Roshan
Mechanical Engineer: Mehdi Javanmardi, Mohammad Fakhrzad, Yaser Zafarabadi
Electrical Engineer: Mehdi Javanmardi, Mohammadmehdi Ghanbarian
Civil Engineer: Mohammad Sasani, Rouholah Farsimadan, Ehsan Parhizgar, Shahab Mahdavi, Kamran Rousta
Photographer: Navid Atrvash, Ali Ahmadpour, Mehdi Ghoraishi, Maziar Fathi
Client: Shiraz Municipality
Project location: Shahed Street to Maaliabad Bridge, Shiraz, Iran
Design year: 2019
Year Built: 2021