Istanbul/ The history of the development of the Taksim square (The Turkish Republic)

The history of the development of the Taksim square (The Turkish Republic)

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Full development history of Taksim Square from the early 1920s to 1950s.

Even Though the Artillery Barrack is no longer for military usage but it’s deep rooted political influences and as a symbol of previous Ottoman Empire that reminds citizens about the old times in their daily lives. The Turkish Republic decided to redevelop the Taksim Square in a large extent to completely wipe of the symbol of the previous empire and inject symbolic elements of the newly born nation-state. The whole redevelopment process of Taksim square under the republic government can be divided into two main stages – a short period between 1925-1928 and Henri Prost’s urban planning period 1937-1939. Both of the stages of development of Taksim square can be compared with two major squares in the new capital of Turkey – Ankara -Taşhan Square and Kızılay Square. More detailed parallel studies would be posted in separate posts to analysis the strategies of politicization of public squares through urban planning by the Turkish Republic.

 

In the first stage, there are three main steps taken by the Turkish Republic to reorganise the Taksim Square to a more manageable size. The first step was the erection of the Independence Monument at the centre in 1928. Hence, the roads,alleys and streets were re-organized around the surrounding of the monument. The final step was to reconstruct the façades of the annexes to the south of the Barracks along the curvilinear border of the circular Square. The vast plain of the drill field for soldiers in Ottoman Empire was divided into parcels with grid plans and modern apartments started to mushroom with the great supply of flat land in the city centre.

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Map of 1925 showing the grid plans and modern apartments construction works.

In the second stage, the Turkish Republic started to get more aggressive with more comprehensive projects toward reorganising urban spaces after consolidating its power and this can be clearly observed in the bold manner of alerting the Taksim square.

 

Henri Prost, a famous western urban planner, was invited to Istanbul in 1935 to produce a comprehensive urban master plan for the development of Istanbul. But with the ideology of promoting the Turkish Republic while wiping off political symbols of previous Ottoman Empire through active urban planning, Henri Prost decided to to emphasize the Greco-Roman and Byzantine past of the city. As he expressed in his letter to Hautecoeur, “I force myself to preserve the most characteristic of the the Roman and Byzantine civilizations” (Prost, 1943) And this can clearly showed the political aim of extending the Square to the east by demolishing the historical Artillery Barracks. The political and social influences of the Artillery Barracks were the pain in the ass of the Turkish Republic, with the excuse of redeveloping the Taksim Square, the political images and influences processed by the Artillery Barracks would be gone for good with the demolition. To redeem the lost of the Artillery Barracks, the empty land would be developed into a public park called as “Gezi Park”.

 

From the gradual transformation of the Taksim Square, it is not difficult to observe the attentive attitude of Turkish Republic towards the Artillery Barracks and the Taksim Square. When the Turkish Republic first came to being, they took more gentle steps to inject their political symbol in the Taksim Square by locating monument and reorganising the traffic system of the area. But once they gained more consolidated political power, they acted more aggressively to propose a more comprehensive urban planning to wipe off the political influences of the previous Ottoman Empire.

 

Reference:

SİNAN P. , NESLİHAN A. Y., “Story of Taksim Square’s Transformation: From Death’s Stillness To Life’s Hubbub”, Urban Transformation: Controversies, Contrasts and Challenges, Bahçeşehir University, 2010

Batuman, B. “”Everywhere Is Taksim”: The Politics of Public Space from Nation-Building to Neoliberal Islamism and Beyond.” Journal of Urban History (2015): 881-907. Print.
Freely, John. Istanbul: The Imperial City. London: Viking, 1996. Print.

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