Istanbul (1925-1933) / Urban Planning Proposals in the early Republican Period (Part 1)

Competition for Reshaping the City

After the formation of new capital of Ankara, the Republican government shifted its attention to rebuild Istanbul according to Kemalist ideology. The government organized a competition in 1933 to invite some of the elite urban planners to propose their schemes on how to transform and modernize the city. In the final stage of the selection process, four urban planners were chosen by the republican government, Donald Alfredc Agache, Jacques-Henri Lambert, Hermann Ehlgotz and Henri Prost. The objective of the competition is the conservation of monuments, improvements in hygiene and the establishment of an effective urban transportation network. Among the three schemes, Ehlgotz’s proposal was most preservative in terms of conserving the urban fabric in the historical core of the city. Although Ehlgotz won the urban competition, his scheme was not implemented at the end.


Journey to the East (travel diary) written by Le Corbusier in 1911
Journey to the East (travel diary) written by Le Corbusier in 1911

Le Corbusier’s Vision of Preserving the Old City

At the same time, Le Corbusier submitted his proposal to Ataturk to present his vision of his urban renewal scheme. In his proposal, he strongly emphasized on the character and importance of the old city. In Le Corbusier’s suggested scheme, the old city inside the city wall should have preserved as its original appearance while the new development would settle outside the Theodosius Walls. In addition, he also proposed to conserve the existing urban fabric and street structure of the old historical Istanbul. In contrary to the republic regime of modernizing Istanbul, Le Corbusier didn’t inject any intervention to the existing city fabric. This greatly contradicted to the direction of modernizing Istanbul under Ataturk’s reform policy as to create a secular and modern city.

Martin Wagner, German architect, urban planner and author
Martin Wagner, German architect, urban planner and author


Wagner’s Decentralized City Scheme

Another important architect, Martin Wagner was invited by the Republican government on solving urban problems of the city. Wagner mainly focused on addressing some of the main problem of Turkey traffic, distribution of resources and the relationship between the city center and its peripheral region. Unlike other urban proposals, his analysis was based on actual flow of population and transportation. The most contributing argument of his proposal was to alleviate the problem of population flux from the countryside to the city center which intensified the overcrowding of residential blocks. The idea was similar to the principles of Garden City as to decentralize the core region and blur the boundary between the city and the countryside. Nevertheless, his urban vision only remained on paper like many of his successors.


Reference: Mehmet Murat Gul and Richard Lamb (2004), Urban Planning in Istanbul in the early Republican Period, Architectural Theory Review Vol. 9 No.1

1 Comment on “Istanbul (1925-1933) / Urban Planning Proposals in the early Republican Period (Part 1)

  1. It was interesting to read about the various ways architects approached the urban planning of Ankara to rebuild Istanbul especially as the architects and urban planners mentioned are mostly of an international background, especially Corbusier. Your post mentions that the government wanted to rebuild Istanbul according to Kemalist ideology, maybe it would be of help to clarify what the Kemalist ideology entails and to what extent the chosen proposal followed and applied the ideology in their planning?

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