Middle Eastern Maidans:
The Role of Interactive and Integrated Public Squares in Urban Social Sustainability
This paper focuses on two public squares (Maidans) in rapidly growing cities in the Middle East: Maidan Naghsh-e-Jahan in Isfahan, Iran and Maidan Rolla in Sharjah, UAE. These cities are selected for their social diversity and the intentional use of public squares in formalizing and directing city growth. As epicenters of urban performances, both Maidans have historically attracted diverse people across social strata and age. While Iran and UAE may not be considered model democratic states and each has a distinct demographic composition, the enhanced social interaction that takes place in the two case Maidans have lessons for making “safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces” (Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development). In comparatively analyzing the two case Maidans, we aim to: 1) Identify their socio- spatial features; 2) present indicators of socially interactive and integrated public places. Using mixed-methods research, we first layer historical maps of the two cities to identify the case Maidans that have persisted over time. Second, we use “Space Syntax” to assess their integrative character. Finally, engaging Projects for Public Space criteria, we comparatively assess their interactive aspects to illustrate their shared urbanity.