Istanbul / CIAM and the Istanbul Master Planning, 1930s -1950s

Following the planning process of Istanbul, one can easily identify the elements to CIAM’s Functional City Proposal set forward in 1933 in Athens. The following quote simplifies the Charter and highlights the four functions required:

  “Proper choice of the site and size of the particular areas for working, dwelling, recreation, and transportation; development and planning of these areas according to their own laws and needs; mutual interrelation of these areas, so that the daily change from working, dwelling, and recreation can occur also from the perspective of the greatest savings of time. […] The form of the city has to be capable of development in its particular parts. At each stage of development, there has to be a balance between the functions of the particular parts.”  (Steinmann, 1979)

And what we can identify is the clarity of the inspiration in the proposed plans from the European planners. Let’s take Piccinato’s Master Plan for example. (Fig. 1)

Master Plan using Functional Zoning systems. (Document from Archivio Luigi Piccinato (ALP))


Functional Zoning seems to be the primary approach to planning which allows for more coherence throughout the city. When you break it down into categories, we can find more traces of influence from Ebeneezer Howard’s Garden City or Patrick Abercrombie’s Plan of London.

Work: (Grey – Industrial Area) Work Zones are shifted out from the inner city, along the Coast of Marmara. The beginning of the decentralisation of the manufacturing industry and redefining Istanbul as a cultural and administrative centre.

Dwelling (Fig. 2): Housing settlements for the existing and incoming influx of migrants is proposed along both sides of the Bospherous River in conjunction to the road networks which will efficiently connect the residents to their workplace.

Plan focused on the housing settlements and the road networks supporting said decisions. (Document from Archivio Luigi Piccinato (ALP))

Recreation: (Dotted circles – Planned Parks) These open spaces are located on the outskirts of the city and thus the ecology is protected from the industrial discharge. These spaces become places of escape since the city of Istanbul is quite topographic and mountainous.

Transportation: (Black Line – Road Network) The axial expressway, primary and secondary roads work in parallel to the housing settlements becoming the spine of the city.

How can we accurately appraise such a proposal that fulfils every rule in the Functional city? This brings back the discussions conducted by CIAM and Team 10 on if this is simply a high ideal that is applicable on paper but fails to be exercised in reality.

They all seem like they fall into place but the reality contests the claim. The lack of wealth on the Eastern side can develop a disconnect to the main city when these plans are underdeveloped to the socio-political context. The human centric-ness assumes the equality among residents and leave the vernacular to fight for their relevance in the urban fabric. Of course, an urban planner can never please everyone but they should reference something that is more relevant to this exceptional scenario where a city shares two continents, cultures and practices.


Akpinar, Ipek. History and Destruction in Istanbul: Ghost Buildings, Edition: 1, Chapter: 5. AB Kültür Başkenti. 2010.

Steinmann, Martin (ed.) CIAM. Dokumente 1928–1939. Basel and Stuttgart: Birkhäuser. 160,163. 1979.

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