In contemporary societies time distinctions are being reconfigured. Although in modernlife technology enables new forms of social activities and entertainments and the possibility to experience them day and night, night has been known and experienced differently in various cultures and in different time periods. Discussions of the city at night are dominated by the framework and experience of Western Europe, the USA and Australia. However, night-life in other places could be different and in order to achieve an in-depth understanding of the concepts of a night-time economy and a 24-hour society it is important to study night-life in various parts of the world.
In this thesis Mashhad is investigated as a 24-hour city in Iran. Night-life in Iran, as a Middle-Eastern country, is different from the available literature as a result of various social and cultural factors. In Iran, because of religious discipline, there are no pubs, bars, casinos or clubs. However, cities work at night with a continuity of their day-time activities. Mashhad, as one of the holiest cities in Shiite Islam with the shrine of Imam Reza located at its centre, is visited annually by over 25 million pilgrims. The large number of visitors and the shrine are characteristics of the city and its 24-hour activity. Boundaries between day and night in Mashhad are less clear cut and night-life includes all kinds of activities including religious, business, recreational, social or commercial. However, the Regeneration and Reconstruction Plan of Imam Reza’s Shrine Area, started in 2001, is threatening the 24-hour features of the shrine area by attempting to modernise it in order to attract and accommodate more pilgrims. This study aims to investigate how to improve nightlife by considering the impact of urban design. It studies the night-life of the shrine area in Mashhad through a multi-method approach and investigates the impact of recent urban design interventions. In addition, a series of guidelines are proposed for revitalisation of the shrine area whilst keeping and supporting its local active night-life. This study fills a part of the gap in the literature of a 24-hour society and night-time economy through investigating a less-studied type of 24-hour society in a context that has not been considered previously and is helpful in redefining the ideas which have been formed because of this gap. By investigating the interconnections between the temporal structure of cities, their spatial form and mass pilgrimage this study argues that social, cultural, economic, political and climatic factors are all important in the formation of night-life in a city and highlights the possible threats to the night-life of cities that might result from urban design approaches that ignore a local context. It also shows that the social and temporal habits of the people who shape a city’s night-life are a product of the discussed factors which may change through time. By emphasising the importance of the local night-time economy in the formation of 24-hour societies, the findings of this study highlight the necessity of considering the night-life of urban areas in regeneration plans. These findings have direct policy relevance in the regeneration plan of the shrine area in Mashhad and are helpful for regeneration plans of similar cases with local active night-life.