Landscapes of Petroleum, Company Towns, Representations and their Impacts on Urbanism and Society: The Case of Abadan, Iran

Using the energy space of oil ‘company town’ of Abadan in Iran, the territorial paradigm of ‘center’ and ‘periphery’ as it relates to corporations and nations is utilized to explore the dialogue between space, energy, power, culture, and society. Specifically, the project aims to [re]define the conventional conception of ‘center’ and ‘periphery’ as a static representation of a singular opposing binary, but instead as a reconciliation between energy and society at multiple scales and in a multitude of manifestations. This project utilized three different instances at three different scales to better explain the varieties of the center | periphery binary by adopting alternative modalities of representing the multi-scalar dynamics that embodied the oil landscapes. In doing so, this project argues that the maps that were produced in the early part of the twentieth century have constructed a narrative in which Iran, and the larger Middle East, is seen as a far away and very different place. Its people are different and their identity is negligible. They are the ‘other’. This ‘otherness’ was manifested in the planning, design and architecture of the oil ‘company town’ which was segregated and based on class, race, rank, experience, and even ethnicity. Using the aforementioned three scales of exploration, this project argues that this ‘otherness’ is not limited to the space of the ‘company town’ but is also manifested at the scale of a country and that of a region. Using maps, images and diagrams, this project unpacks the impacts of the petroleum on society, urbanism and identity formation in Abadan, Iran and across the large Middle East. 


Dalal Musaed Alsayer