Ankara (1929-35)/ City as a Stage of Politics: Garden City in Developing Countries – Aftermath of Bahçelievler and Ankara, 1935

Ankara (1929-35)/ City as a Stage of Politics: Garden City in Developing Countries – Aftermath of Bahçelievler and Ankara, 1935
Bahçelievler c.2000. Photo courtesy of G. Çizgen.

The Bahçelievler Housing Cooperative project in the Western part of Ankara by Jansen (the master planner of Ankara, 1929) apart from being a great example showing the unsynchronized understanding on the appropriation of architecture representation in the translation process, its population growth and aftermath were also served as a depiction of the big picture. By evaluating and comparing the early and latter Ankara, this blog post shall pose questions to be solved: How appropriate is the Garden City in developing countries? Is there a ‘ideal plan’ or ‘universal plan’ for all countries? Or, shall a plan be necessarily perfect?

Bahçelievler c.2000. Photo courtesy of G. Çizgen.
Bahçelievler c.2000. Photo courtesy of G. Çizgen.

After the Bahçelievler was completed in 1936, it underwent continuous transformation and eventually disappearance. The house owner applied to the municipality to add rooms to their individual houses, and more importantly, due to the increase in building height limit to four to five stories with the master plan of 1957, the density of the area boosted to almost sixteenfold (Akcan 2012). The financial profits were a great temptation for the families to tear down and reconstruct higher and taller multifamily apartment blocks, which in the end, in less than a decade, “the houses of Bahçelievler had evaporated into cash” (Akcan 2012). Zooming out to the whole Ankara, Jansen’s plan for Ankara was initially prepared to accommodate 300,000 people, which had already exceeded by 1950; and today, Ankara’s population reached 4.5 million, which is 150 times the original estimation. Although in Howard’s vision, another garden city shall be built next to it and separated with green belt, it was difficult to implement in a developing country with rapid economic growth. Instead, Ankara chose to deconstruct the garden city, and the green belts were gradually filled up with inhabitants.

 

The government was being criticized for not preserving low-density housings like Bahçelievler and allow land speculations to ruin the form of the neighbourhood in later years. However, one could not neglect the fact that it is actually an inevitable process of demand and supply under overpopulation. It proved that Jansen’s Plan, or say, a Garden City ideal, was not suitable for Ankara and as a model city followed by rest of the Turkey, a developing country.  As mentioned in “The Future of Asian Cities” by the SPUR group, the context and population in Asian Cities are greatly different from European countries and therefore ‘congested city’ is unavoidable. Therefore, obviously a universal city model does not exist. Garden city was fundamentally an “antimetropolitan” model, protecting the inhabitants from the big city. Yet in Ankara, garden city was being translated as part of the modernist agenda and strictly implemented. Ironically, the Kemalist envisioned a ‘metropolitan’ image of the city, which lead to the conclusion that garden city was NOT the suitable tool to achieve the goal. Despite the fact that Jansen, the designer of the city, had NEVER moved to Ankara in his life, which he only monitored the process by constant translations and delivery of letters and visit Ankara once or twice per year to fulfil his contract requirement (Akcan 2012), a handful of people controlling the development and politics of Ankara and tried to implement the plan ‘from above to below’ by authority. The neglecting of alternative voice among citizen was therefore crucial in leading the failure.

 

Bibliography:

Akcan, Esra. Architecture in Translation: Germany, Turkey, and the modern house. the United State of America: Duke University Press, 2012.

Kezer, Zeynep. Building Modern Turkey: State, Space, and Ideology in the Early Republic. United States of America: the University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015.

The Singapore Planning and Urban Research Group. “The Future of Asian Cities.” SPUR 65-67, 1967: 4-12.

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