The architectural as well as urban development of Istanbul have much to do with its political circumstances. For it had gone through a rapid change in political status in the region since early 1900s. These series of threads aim to examine the relationship of these dependent factors that cultivated the swift transformation of Istanbul and even Turkey since the 1930s.

As much powerful as the republican party utilised the architectural style and representation to demote the Ottoman heritage in people’s daily life, which is discussed in the previous thread, the party also constructed and reinforced, both literally and figuratively the image of modernist society and built environment that they envisioned along with the authority and political power in the impression of the Turkish.

Spatially and formally speaking, in the party’s perspective, the People’s Houses and People’s Rooms symbolise organised, formal and clean whereas the abandoned Ottoman Revivalist style is comparatively unorganised and in favour to the party’s words, a symbol of backwardness [1]. Examples of People’s Houses such as Izmir Halkevleri (Figure 1) is a modernist villa on the seashore, Kadikoy Halkevi in Istanbul was a big four-story structure with flat roof and cubical volumes and an extent verticality (Figure 2) that were not presented in the “old style”. Later on with the growth of the Houses and Rooms in the 1940s the party even provided the building plans and even materials to the construction of the People’s Room [2] in order to provide a certain uniformity and regularity of style and function of the more than 4000 of Rooms across the country (Figure 3).

Figure 1. modernist villa on the seashore
Figure 2. Kadikoy Halkevi in Istanbul
Figure 3. Plan for People’s Room

The republican party intended the People’s House to go beyond the simply utilitarian and lead the advancement of modern architectural culture in Turkey by example, gaining recognition as symbols of the state’s civilising mission [3]. The choosing of site for the building premise was also an important work, stipulating that the location be prominent and close to the new downtown, with other governmental and institutional buildings nearby (Figure 4). They as a cluster of modern architecture once again play an important role on symbolising and asserting a modernised lifestyle and power.

Figure 4. Construction of People’s House in Diyarbakir

“If knowledge and technology are necessary for our society, both our men and our women have to acquire them equally.” – Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [4]

The republican party promoted the Kemalist ideals through architecture which engenders the modern in other institutional levels. This is beyond simply associate architecture with the ideals with symbolism. Examples such as an architectural magazine publishing a photo montage in 1933 of a young woman radiologist with her head uncovered posing in front of a distinctly modern apartment building (Figure 4) [5]. The introduction of architecture for women education not only encourage women to come out from the Muslim tradition and climb up the social ladder by the fact that for the first time women were treated equally as men. This was impossible to happen under the old monarchy, and soon became a frequent expression and reinforcement to the Kemalist leader and republican party for its political status.

Figure 5. a young woman radiologist with her head uncovered posing in front of a distinctly modern apartment building




[1] Gul, Murat. “The Neglected City.” In The Emergence of Modern Istanbul – Transformation and Modernisation of a City, 73. I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, 2009.

[2] Kemal H. Kerpat, “The People’s Houses in Turkey: Establishment and Growth,” Middle East Journal 17, no. 1/2 (1963): 63, accessed December 13, 2017, doi:

[3] Keyer, Zeynep. “Of Forgotten People and Forgotten Places.” In Building Modern Turkey – State, Space, and Ideology in the Early Republic, 226. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015.

[4] Gul, Murat. “The Neglected City.” In The Emergence of Modern Istanbul – Transformation and Modernisation of a City, 76. I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, 2009.

[5] Bozdogan, Sibel. “Architecture of Revolution.” In Modernism and Nation Building, 84-85. The University of Washington Press, 2001.


  1. It reminds me of our class field trip to Nanjing with Anderson during Year 3 first sem. We were looking at early to mid 1900s architecture to see how government and even the architects themselves were implementing ideas they pursue. To promote the idea of ‘modern’, government used one of the columns of an elevated highway to hold an elevator that leads to view tower at the height of elevated road. And the row of coloumns were deliberately all facing the statue of Mao inside the view tower. National Stadium in modern style was also another way of delivering the importance of exercise among the nation.

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