Istanbul / Extent of Foreign Influence on PM Menderes’ Decisions (1930s-1950s)

From a political standpoint, the planning of Istanbul seems as an opportunity to appropriate power for the Democratic Party. This was in order to solidify their home base after the Republican Party had decided to move the country’s capital to Ankara, in 1923. And to understand the condition of Istanbul put forward by Menderes, we can trace the timeline back to 1933, when the Republicans first approached overseas planners to propose potential Master Plans for Istanbul and greater Turkey. The initial approach was largely motivated by the aesthetic and the open space under the European manifesto for city planning. And it is mainly said to be the effect of the invitees’ lack of exposure to the city itself. However, the success of the Haussmann Boulevards (Fig. 1) and the American Freeway system (Fig. 2) seemed attractive to Menderes in the bringing Istanbul to the 20th century and thus became his primary point of reference. Therefore when Henri Prost proposed the idea of spanning road networks and expressways, Menderes used his master plan proposal as a base to build on top of.


Fig. 1 Istanbul Boulevards and Squares Construction works in the late 1950s proposed by Prime Minister Menderes in the heart of the city


 Fig. 2 Artist rendition from the 1950s of the Lower Manhattan Expressway between the Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. (Photograph from Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority)


It is quite curious, we credit Menderes with Istanbul’s planning process, even though he was never trained in the field, thus his primary approach was politically driven to increase efficiency within the city by establishing a clean slate through the massive demolitions to the existing vernacular. It can all be summed up with this quote:


“Modernity, between WWII and the 1960s, meant that ‘the old’ had to be demolished and great infrastructural investments had to compose the backbone. PM Menderes was the protagonist ordering ‘exceptional’ interventions and planning decisions in the public realm.” (Brosens and Bedir, 2014)


But of course, there were some merit to his actions, as it brought more technicality and efficiency to a largely unorganised and ancient city through a juxtaposed balance. And the definite traces of foreign influences expose the arbitrariness of the decision making of Menderes and the Turkish planners as since there are so many sites of historical significance, it would be very difficult to clean up the streets without destruction.


Akpinar, Ipek. The Rebuilding of İstanbul Revisited: Foreign Planners in the Early Republican Years. New Perspectives on Turkey. 2014.

Steele, James. Tensions and Transformations in the Master Planning Process of Istanbul. University of Southern California. 2010.

Brosens, Pieter., Bedir, Merve. Modernity vs. Modernism in Istanbul: the Culture of Rupture and the state of Exception. TU Delft. 2014

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