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Scholarship Winner Looks to Advance Ecological Design in Her Native Iran

sanazchamanara

As the first recipient of the $20,000 LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli, FASLA, Sanaz Chamanara embodies much of what Joe stood for during his 46-year career as a landscape architect, artist, philanthropist, mentor, and teacher. Sanaz is a young designer with a powerful combination of talent, work ethic, experience, and sense of social purpose that provides her with a strong platform to significantly advance the design of urban landscapes in her native Iran and potentially throughout the Middle East.

Sanaz is pursuing a Masters of Landscape Architecture at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She holds a degree in Architecture from the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST) and a Landscape Architecture graduate degree from Shahid Beheshti University (BSU), where she ranked first in her graduating class.

Sanaz describes the suburb where she grew up in Shiraz, Iran as a “grey neighborhood” — an image that is in stark contrast to a place that was historically known as the “Garden City.” Shiraz is the capitol of Fars Province and one of the oldest cities in southern Iran. Over a century ago, Shiraz was covered by lush gardens, including hundreds of hectares of orchards in Ghasr-Dasht, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. However, many of these gardens and productive landscapes have been destroyed by decades of rapid population growth and private development spurred by increasing land values. The result has been overall environmental decline.

In “Revitalizing Urban Gardens, The Transfer of Development Rights in Shiraz, Iran,” Sanaz and her co-author Amirreza Kazemeini, a graduate student at Qeshm International University, propose that the City make shifts in policy to protect and support productive landscapes and their water resources and to identify more suitable areas for future development and urban growth.

Through this graduate research and her professional experiences in both Shiraz and Tehran, Sanaz came to realize that landscape architecture is still a fairly new field in her country and that its importance is often overlooked. She observed an absence of experts in Iran with an understanding of ecological processes and solutions to combat issues of pollution, drought, and flooding that are plaguing many Iranian cities today. Sanaz has been actively working to fill this void throughout her academic endeavors in landscape architecture.

“I didn’t learn about ecological concepts in my graduate studies in Iran, and that’s why I am here.”

Sanaz just completed her first year at the University of Michigan and is currently researching the application and design of green infrastructure towards social cohesion in Detroit. She sees many parallels that will help inform her work in the future. “The problems that currently plague Detroit I can definitely see happening to cities like Tehran in the future,” she observes, unless more sustainable development solutions and policies are put into place.

Sanaz is also passionate about gender-equal design in the landscape. As an Iranian born women, she has a distinct and essential design perspective. In a country that is dominated by the male point of view and where women are often marginalized — particularly in the poorer communities, Sanaz espouses the importance of landscape architecture in the design of spaces that can help provide both recreational and economic opportunities to empower women and promote more gender-equal communities.

Sanaz intends to continue her studies in the U.S. and pursue a PhD. Looking further into the future, she plans to move back to Shiraz, where she hopes to serve on the Board of Directors for the City to affect policies and lead the city toward a more sustainable future. And one day, she hopes to open a school in landscape architecture in her hometown, educating students on the principals of ecological systems and the critical role of the landscape architect in Iran. 

We commend Sanaz for her accomplishments and commitment to the field of landscape architecture, and we look forward to following her as she continues her academic and professional pursuits!

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