Istanbul/ The history of the development of the Taksim square (From 17th century to Ottoman Empire)

The history of the development of the Taksim square (From 17th century to Ottoman Empire)


Taksim square is indeed the heart of Istanbul and it relates to everyday lives of people living in Istanbul, as it is the main centre of all activities and the city’s major transportation node. And with the monument of Ataturk as the iconic symbol of the modern Turkish Republic, Taksim square takes up the role to host meetings, celebrations, concerts, attracting a considerable section of Istanbul population. It would be useful to look into how this taksim square gained its political and social influences throughout its own development history, which could help us better understand why the Turkish Republic chose Taksim square as one of the major area for redevelopment during the very early period of nation building.


Painting showing the green graveyard as an active public space.

Taksim square started with nothing romantic but a arboreous green graveyard. Unlike other graveyards, it was integral parts of daily lives as its beautiful view and proximity to the narrow streets of Pera facilitated the transformation from graveyards to a public strolling place. The passive greenland was activated by residents as they frequently use the place, which transform into an active public greenland.


Until 1732-1733, the first large-scale construction of the region started to put the whole region under the limelight. The construction of “Maksem”, the reservoir for the storing and distributing the city’s water is the inspiration for the name of the square “Taksim”. In fact, “Taksim” means “to divide”, was derived from this portioning of water for distribution. Maksem was the most prominent building before another series of large-scale construction in the middle of the 19th century.


Until 19th century, the Ottoman government decided to demolish the Catholic and Protestant graves in the Grand Cemetery and instructed construction of Taksim Artillery Barracks, Stone Barracks and the Military Hospital on the area. As the cemeteries were demolish and relocated to Şişli, the evacuation freed up the ground for a city park and to be called the “Taksim Park”. With the construction of “Taksim Park”, the idea of parks for public recreation started to clearly reflected the urban planning of Ottoman Empire. According to observations of Edmondo De Amicis, “ the Taksim Park was full of people and carriages on Sunday afternoons and the colourful world of Pera overflowed the beer gardens, cafes and amusement centres.” (Celik,1986)


The large-scale military establishments were considered to be beyond the city’s limits so in 1920s, the barracks were no longer functional and were completely evacuated. Therefore, the buildings were transformed into a public facilitates – first urban Stadium of Istanbul. The transformation further increase the social importance and influences of the Taksim square as it had greater bonding with daily-lives of citizens.



SİNAN POLVAN , NESLİHAN AYDIN YÖNET, “Story of Taksim Square’s Transformation: From Death’s Stillness To Life’s Hubbub”, Urban Transformation: Controversies, Contrasts and Challenges, Bahçeşehir University, 2010

Çelik, Z. (1986) The Remaking of Istanbul, Portrait of an Ottoman City in the
Nineteenth Century.

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