Our Story

Silk Cities is the outcome of a UCL/Bartlett-hosted international conference held in early November 2012, focusing on urban change in Iran. The conference itself was an independent, bottom-up initiative and drew interest from a wide range of Iranian and non-Iranian built environment professionals, academics and students from around the globe. Initiated and organised by Farnaz Arefian, a doctoral researcher and consultant at the time, the conference received a total of 625 abstracts in response to the call for papers with over 120 conference attendees. The conference was branded as a landmark event by Oxford Brookes University and also received special attention from the UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, who acknowledged that Iran’s unique cultural heritage carries vast potential to inspire future sustainable development.  The conference theme addressed socio-cultural drivers of urban transformation in the context of the impacts of exposure to natural hazards. The book Urban Change in Iran was published based on a selection of conference papers. You can find more information and the book in “Our First Conference” section.

The need for wider intellectual exchange necessitated the establishment of an independent platform with a broader geographic focus amongst built environment professionals. During and after the conference discussions continued to explore the possibility of an ongoing initiative. As cities grow and transform, they generate a multiplicity of challenges which require careful and responsive solutions to be explored. Communication and knowledge-sharing provide a mean for improving the quality of the built environment – to discuss, challenge and stimulate ideas towards finding shared solutions. The Beta version of Silk Cities was launched by founder, Farnaz Arefian, in 2014. Since then ‘Silk Cities’ has attracted the attention of professional and academic institutions and individuals in various countries in the region and beyond.

Strategic partnership

From our early steps, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) at UCL has kindly supported the Silk Cities initiative. As such, a strategic and academic partnership has been formed between Silk Cities and DPU. Visit our microsite at DPU’s website at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/development/research/silk-cities.  Silk Cities welcome further partnerships and collaborations with reputable, creative and forward-looking organisations.

Advisory Board

Silk Cities benefits from generous advisory supports of globally renowned experts, as follows:

  • Prof. Julio D Davila
  • Prof. Ali Modarres
  • Prof. Yves Cabannes
  • Prof. Ramin Keivani
  • Prof. Mohammad Chaichian
  • Ms. Judith Ryser
  • Dr. Hassan Karimian
  • Dr. Cassidy Johnson

Silk Cities Volunteers

Silk Cities is operational because of the support of volunteers who dedicate their time and creativity to our cause. A special thanks to Mahya Fatemi, Maryam Eftekhar Dadkhah, Ehsan Fatehifar, Eva Coleman, Shirin Hakim, Joy Zhuoya Chen, Mona Jabbari, Fatemeh Khatami, Anna Koldeva, Atiyeh Ardakanian, Sara Amini, Olga Kytea,  Hassan Estaji, Reyhaneh Shojaei.