ISTANBUL (1930-40s) / TYPOLOGY OF INSTITUTIONAL DEVICE: PEOPLE’s HOUSE — SIGNIFICANCE OF PLACEMENT IN URBAN CONTEXT
The People’s Houses started out from inheriting defunct Turkish Hearths from 1932, then moving progressively into custom-built sites commissioned by the RPP’s local branch. They were often intentionally placed to face public squares or major streets in order to show its representational importance. The RPP intended for them to serve as both physical landmarks and activity nodes in their respective towns and cities so they can effectively permeate and anchor areas of social life.
The RPP officials emphasized in the manual for Halkevi (People’s House) buildings, that they should be close to the new downtown area where the other institutional and governmental buildings were situated. In fact, some projects were built in a reversed sequence, where the public square was constructed after the People’s House. Otherwise, most of the People’s Houses were constructed next to the existing main axis of the cities (Fig. 1-3) with a public square nearby, in order for some open cultural activities to take place.
To elaborate, they were usually placed next to the “Gazi Boulevard” or “Ataturk Caddesi” (Fig. 4), which are public assembly spaces evident in each city. The People’s House in Bursa is an example where municipal buildings and institutions were situated nearby.
For coastal cities, rather than placing the People’s House near the public square in the city centre, the governmental buildings and the People’s House were placed and aligned to the waterfront area to emphasize the coastal public spaces for socialisation and establish an administrative centre for municipality. For example, the arrangement of the People’s House in Izmit, conventional hall, public square, terrace decks and rose gardens created a public promenade (Fig. 5).
The planner, Jansen, also proposed another urban square in front of the Mosque near the waterfront to create another social space that opens up to the sea. This urban gesture also symbolises opening up the city. Instead of stripping off the existing Mosque, the People’s House was placed next to it to demonstrate the spatial alternative for socialisation and gathering other than the traditional social role of the Mosque.
Aside from the nine typical programs, there were other special programs that affected the orientation of the People’s Houses. For instance, the People’s House in Izmit (Fig. 6) has the semi-circular end of the block, which houses programs like auditorium and wedding ceremonies, facing the pier to introduce sunlight and direct view to the sea (Fig. 7). The pier in this context could have been allocated for water-related sports.
Ultimately, institutional and governmental buildings like the People’s House had became crucial spatial elements to define the cities. Public squares, like the People’s Garden, the Youth Park and the Culture Park, were situated across the People’s Houses and acted as assembly points for socialization. In contrary, historical gardens of the Ottoman Empire would have been segregated and placed in a totally different approach, which was based on the separation of social strata. To sum up, Kemalists utilized placement of the People’s Houses into urban planning so the public sphere and institutions would become platforms to infuse and civilise, instead of treating them as places for true political negotiation.
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