Istanbul (1930s-1940s)/ The Role of Espaces Libres in Secularisation
Espaces Libres in Prost Plan were public open spaces visibly connected to all parts of the city. Between 1939 and 1948, approximately 90 km highways were opened for transportation, connecting the 18 public squares (Yildirim, 2012). In Prost Plan, Espaces Libres were not only urban planning devices for greenery and sanitation, but also a gesture liberating women and children’s freedom in enjoying a public life (Akpınar, 2014). Espaces libres bringing men and women together visualized the secularization of the state.
Prost designed and executed eighteen open spaces for the city, covering the city extensively (Fig.1). Prost planned two major recreational areas, Park no.1 and Park no.2. While Park no.1 was located in the historic peninsula, Park no.2 was located in the newly developed neighborhood. In the historical peninsula, Prost proposed a new life scenario along the new cultural valley from Taksim towards Nişantaşı. A green axis surrounded by a series of public spaces for cultural and sports activities was formed by the demolition of the Topçu Barracks and the conversion of three other surrounding buildings (Fig.2). On the other hand, Park no.2 was the lung of the new residential area, providing recreational area for the migrating population (Fig.3). Apart from these major large-scale urban project, Prost converted the cemeteries in neighborhoods to sports fields and playgrounds (Akpınar, 2014).
Espaces Libres were designed to be freely and easily accessible both physically and visually with the construction of the network of boulevards. They were also opened to all, unrestricted by religions. The multi-purpose open spaces introduced the notion of “liberal movement” into the urban space, signifying Turkish secularization (Akpınar, 2014). In the Old Ottoman period, women’s status was lower than men. Women has no political rights nor power. Ataturk advocated gender equity and issued a series of reform when establishing the Republic of Turkey.
Corresponding to Atatuk’s vision, Prost designed the liberal open spaces to make women visible in the urban context. Espaces Libres proposed a new life scenario, where both women and men could freely enjoy a mixed public life and grew accustomed to each other (Fig.4). This introduced a radical change in Turkish everyday life. They directly marked the transition from an Ottoman era when men and women were separated towards the mixed society of a secular state.
Moreover, in the large-scale urban reform Prost proposed, Espaces Libres were visibly connected to the city. They were visualizations of the new political power over the past at both national level and international level.
Akpınar, İ., (2014). The Rebuilding of Istanbul: The Role of Foreign Experts in the Urban Modernisation in the Early Republican Years. New Perspectives on Turkey. Spring 2014. pp. 59-92
Yildirim, B. (2012). Transformation of Public Squares of Istanbul Between 1938-1949. Cities, Nations and Regions in Planning History. 15th International Planning History Society Conference.