Ankara (1929-35)/ From Paper to Product: Plans or Practicality?

Although Hermann Jansen’s master plan was developed and received in 1929, the political landscape of Turkey was gradually changing over the years. Towards the mid-1930s, the political inclination within the republican administration grew closer and closer towards the increasingly powerful authoritarian contingent, and thus the political views changed with it. Whereas Hermann Jansen’s plans stressed the enshrinement of the people and segregation of the political area of the plan from the rest of the city both geographically and visually, the administrative section of the people that were coming into power disagreed.

With Hermann Jansen being pre-occupied with different projects of his own in Germany, the Turkish government decided to introduce Clemens Holzmeister, an Austrian architect whose political views aligned with theirs, to design certain buildings in the Master Plan, with the Presidential Palace being one of the main ones. Holzmeister decided to make additions to the original plan; whereas the original presidential palace was a standalone building in the heart of the Government Hill, Holzmeister made the addition of various buildings for governmental and military purposes on the lots adjacent to the triangular superblock of the government quarters, in direct violation of Jansen’s ideas that the Presidential Palace should be the singularity in the triangular section.

Not only did Holzme

ister make adjustments to the Presidential Palace, he also constructed a large security monument in the middle of the proposed Vista. Whereas Jansen’s original Master Plan allowed a vista and clear visual connections between the Government Hill and other axes of prominent monuments, this security monument, which totally obstructed the views originally planned, was said to honour the police and Gendarme Corps instead of the original celebration of national unity.

Image courtesy of the Turkish Historical Society Library
Image courtesy of the Turkish Historical Society Library

Although the names which show up in historical records are Hermann Jansen and Clemens Holzmeister as the architects, who are the real architects? In the end, architecture is always a political statement; even in present-day society, the social impacts, the economic costs, the leverage that the government can gain from certain monumental pieces of architecture and landmarks all have their political impacts. In Ankara, this was especially the case, with the change in flux of power gradually moving away from the idealistic and holistic Master Plan of Jansen and going to the nationalist, utilitarian views of Holzmeister.

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