Farokh Afshar

Dr. Farokh Afshar (1947-2007) was one of the three co-founders of Development Workshop in 1973. DW was born in one of those turbulent times of the student movement and the rise of Third World rejection of earlier developmentalist models. We were fortunate enough to work with Hassan Fathy the guru of Peoples Architecture in those days.

Farokh always challenged DW to look beyond the architecture that we were all trained in and to take a critical view of ourselves as professionals. Farokh was passionate in his advocacy for an alternative more rational approach to planning and architecture. To have a profound respect for the vulnerable people who were our clients because they became our teachers. It was from them we learned the accumulated knowledge of generations. It was from them that we learned to build, and to pass on these lessons to others.

The work we then did together in Egypt and Oman provided the opportunity to substantially develop these ideas on the basis of extensive research into the potential role of indigenous building and planning methods. And then, from 1975 until 1979 as architects and planners for the Selseleh Regional Development Project in western Iran, we finally had the opportunity to put the fruits of learning and research into practice, working in Luristan along side local builders and craftsmen to develop practical approaches to regional and town planning, for the provision of infrastructure using local skills and materials, and to nurture the roll of the local builder as an agent for development.

For almost four decades DW has seen vulnerable poor transformed into internally displaced peoples in their own countries, losing their rights to land that they occupied and economically excluded from rebuilding their livelihoods by planners who’s technological choices ignore the potentials of investing in local enterprises and materials.

Farokh was born in Calcutta of Iranian parents in 1947, he lived in four different countries before making Canada his home in 1982. Farokh wanted to make a better world both in his community in Canada and abroad. While a director of Development Workshop Canada, he worked in 15 countries as a consultant to international development organizations, NGOs and national governments. A committed scholar and passionate teacher, Farokh was a professor at the University of Guelph’s School of Environmental Design and Rural Development. He was also a board member of the North-South Institute, the Canadian Association for Studies in International Development, and of the editorial board of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies. He was a member of the Iranian-Canadian Community of Guelph, the Canadian Institute of Planners, the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, and the Global Planning Educators Interest Group of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. Farokh served for eight years on Guelph’s Round Table on Environment, Economy, and Society. Farokh passed away in 2007 leaving behind his wife Maribel and two daughters, Zhaleh and Aaliyeh.