ISTANBUL/ The madness in Taksim Project

The madness in Taksim Project

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 ‘Mega-Construction Site’ in different districts of Istanbul.  Source: Radikal Newspaper, 24.06.2012

 

Istanbul is transforming to a global city that becomes one of the nodal hubs that knit the global economy together. In order to present the city with more modernised image, many ‘mad project’ had been proposed in different districts of Istanbul. The term ‘mad project’ was first mentioned in the national election in 2011, the Prime Minister Erdogan had preferred to label his ‘visionary’ urban interventions for Istanbul as ‘mad projects’ during his election campaign. Among all mad projects, Taksim Project is one of the most controversial urban transformation projects high on the urban agenda of Istanbul at the moment.

 

The renewal project was not welcomed by the general public and regarded as a real mad projects because of several reasons. Firstly, the accommodating symbiosis of the square will be radically damaged. Taksim Square has long been a vibrant urban centre of Istanbul and has always been a political space in the contemporary history of the Turkish Republic, a place where the May Days were celebrated. Any changes made to the Taksim Square would cause damages the symbiosis of the square. The plan to deconstruct the Gezi Park and reconstruct the former Artillery Barracks demolished 70 years ago. This act would definitely wipe off a period of the history of Turkey which was similar to the demolition of the Artillery Barracks in the old times. Hence, a parallel universe would be constructed underground. The acceleration of the traffic in the underground will make pedestrians almost impossible to cross roads at the end or beginning of the underpass. The renewal plans only focused on developing underground traffic system without really consider the improvement for the public transportation system which is already insufficient as thousands of people per day travel by public means. In other words, the Taksim Square after the pedestrianization would only reachable for people from the upper or middle class who can afford a car. Therefore, the wealthier population is benefited more in this Taksim project than the poor population. Furthermore, the loss of Gezi Park would mean an obvious decline of the quality of life of the citizens. The shopping malls they get in return may not be beneficial to grass root and lower class as they may not have the economic power to enjoy the services in the shopping malls.

The top-down approach for the urban renewal of Istanbul also received serious criticisms  as neither civil society, nor citizens were part of the decision-making process. Most of the urban decisions had been made behind closed doors and hidden from the general public until the final presentation from the Prime Minister in the election campaign. The public squares are no longer owned by the public but already politicised by the government which the central authority was above the local level.

Reference:
Bonn, “Urban renewal and its political implications at Taksim Square in Istanbul”,2014

Adanali, Y. A., The Reign of “Madness” in Istanbul: Economies of Scale of Urban Transformation, Trialog 108, 2014

2 Comments on “ISTANBUL/ The madness in Taksim Project

  1. This is a well organised criticism on Taksim project. Although without sufficient plans and images it took me a while to get a glimpse of what it looks like on the web. The Taksim square is undoubtedly important as it is one of the major political space for various protests and movements, also a facade to demonstrate power. I think it is also interesting to look at the phenomenology behind such top-down planning culture in Istanbul. Personally I think the most important change is the narrowed physical dimension of the open space, with the introduction of tourism into the surrounding fabric. The essence of politics would definitely be blurred and the extent that public could utilize it would be hindered. There may be hidden agenda behind such alternation as they all point to a deterioration in public participation of politics.

  2. Good comment from Jonathan. Apart from the clear top-down rebuilding process, it is important to demonstrate why the 3 sites were selected for this analysis. Was there any strategic links between Taksim Square, Eminonu Square and Fatih Square, respectively relating to rather divergent aspect of the city from barracks (military) to mosque (religion) and boulevard (political). Being public squares, they are formally comparable, but in situating them adjacent to one another in a decisive analysis, there has to be more behind the thesis. Are they linked up ideologically in some ways, according to the planning process? Otherwise, why not delve deeper into one particular square and search out its building process, its controversies and resistances, to reveal how the general public struggles with such massive top-down planning ideals.

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