An Analysis of BP Oil Company’s Role in the Transformation of Architecture and Lifestyle in Iran’

Document Type : Original Article


1 PhD Candidate, Architecture, Faculty of Architecture, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran

2 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Architecture, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran


Evolved over thousands of years, the Iranian lifestyle and its manifestation, namely, Iranian architecture, underwent radical transformations since the late Qajar period. Although several factors played their role in this transformation, one of the most important factors was undoubtedly the activities of BP (as the most visible manifestation of the presence of the British Empire in Iran) in the oil-rich regions of the south. Advised by British architectural firms such as Wilson Mason, formerly operating in colonial cities such as Delhi, BP created quasi-colonial cities in Iran that had nothing to do with their cultural context. It was also the first instance of modern residential architecture and urban life based on a Western model in Iran. Using the interpretive-historical strategy and documentary research method, the present research examines the role of the oil industry, and above all BP, in order to answer what and how the Iranian architecture and lifestyle changed. It shows that the activity of BP paved the way for transformation in three steps. In the first step, the welfare facilities prompted discrimination between European and Iranian employees, and with it a desire for change among Iranians. In the second step, from 1925, the company started extensive modernisation of oil cities. In the third step, the modern architecture and lifestyle of cities such as Abadan and Masjed Soleyman were imitated in other cities, which proceeded through widespread propaganda.


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