Ankara (1929-35)/ From Paper to Product: The Rerouting of the North-South Axis

The north-south axis is always a main axis for a city, as it is often used as the centre of the city for planning and ideological purposes. One of the key takeaways from the fact that the north-south axis of Ankara was rerouted during the later developmental stages of the Master Plan show that strong forces were at work, and that there were major changes in how the plans for the city translated into the actual physical manifestation.

Different plans were originally proposed in a competition for the Master Plan of Ankara. With the different proposals suggesting a new city centre being established directly south of the old castle, the old city centre, the main north-south axis of Ankara, slightly baroque-inspired, would stretch as the backbone of the plan, from which city blocks would branch out from. Lorcher, who suggested the main axis named ‘National Avenue’, would not win the competition, but his ideals were put into use by Hermann Jansen, coincidentally another urban planner/architect from Berlin. Regarding the Garden City model as the perfect way to establish a ‘healthy and modern’ Ankara, Jansen gave the Citadel (old city centre) the role of a museum piece, reflective of the inherent culture, whereas the new city centre would be the core that future generations would develop around.

What Jansen did not consider though, was that the Garden City was meant for ‘reformist impulses of private enterprises’ (Bozdogan and Akcan, “Turkey: Modern Architectures in History”), rather than the single-party state of the Republic of Turkey, which had strong political decisions. Eventually, what happened was that the main north-south axis was rerouted; originally being designed to have designated landmarks alongside the axis, and eventually ending at the General Assembly, the Party decided that the axis would turn towards the Southeast once it reached Presidential Hill, ending at the Presidential Palace in Cankaya instead of the General Assembly, and bypassing the main Government Quarters. it also would skip the Republic Square and the monumental obelisk, and thus not only symbolized a disregard for Hermann Jansen’s plan (which eventually led to him quitting the project and removing his signature), but also lessening the emphasis of the General Assembly within the physical and symbolic landscape.

References: “Turkey: Modern Architectures in History”, Esra Akcan, Sibel Bozdogan

“Beyond Anitkabir: The Funeary Architecture of Ataturk: The Construction and Maintenance of National Memory”, Christopher S. Wilson

“Architecture in Translation: Germany, Turkey, and the Modern House”, Esra Akcan

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