Istanbul (1956-1961) / Changing Istanbul Landscape with formation of Gecekondus

As the anti-Greek riot took place in 1955, many Greeks moved away from Istanbul. This period was a tipping point for Turkey as 1950 onwards migrants from rural Turkey moved into Istanbul in search for jobs. Turkey allied with the US and received abundant financial aids.  This urban sprawl period saw the continuous influx of migrants who settled in Istanbul. The rapid migration into Istanbul was post World War II and the settlements created by the migrating population were locally known as ‘Gecekondus’, which were like squatter houses – a form of informal housing. The Gecekondus were mostly located on the outskirts of the city and took over the planned residential areas (refer to Fig 1).  Another interesting observation was that the gecekondu communities were discovered more towards the European side of Istanbul than the Asian side. The reason for this kind of division is most likely due to more wealth present in the European side. These gecekondu communities gained wealth and increased exponentially in Istanbul to the point that government wasn’t able to control it.


Fig 1. Sprawl of Industrial and Residential areas in Istanbul during 1950–1980.  The map reveals the placement of Gecekondus towards the outskirts of the city. 


This marked the radical transformation of Istanbul’s landscape by massive urban demolitions as well as the change of population by the migration in and out of the city turning the capital from a cosmopolitan center into a more homogeneous and Turkish one. This internal migration can be explained – first of all, by the rapid mechanization of the agriculture due to “Marshall Aid”1, creating unemployment among peasants all over Turkey. Secondly, Istanbul’s rapidly developing industry created a demand for considerable numbers of workers, which led to the rural migrants getting jobs within Istanbul due to the money received through Marshal Aid.

Rapid migration caused political unrest and Menderes took this as an advantage and initiated the Redevelopment Act in 1956.

[1] an initiative by the United States of America to aid Western Europe post World War II

2 Comments on “Istanbul (1956-1961) / Changing Istanbul Landscape with formation of Gecekondus

  1. At first, I thought the Gecekondus is similar with the squatter houses in Hong Kong. After some research, I found out they were actually quite different in terms of the living quality. According to a member of the Gaziosmanpasa housing rights council, he characterized the Gecekondus as “more of a life style” which the density is low, and there are houses with gardens. And according to your article, it is written that “the Gecekondus… took over the planned residential areas” and according to the map, the area of Gacekondus located on the outskirts in an orderly manner. Does that mean the Gecekondus didn’t change the land use planning of Istanbul, it just changed the lifestyle and type of development of the city? Also, Gecekondu literally means “built overnight. I guess the formation of Istanbul at that was changing continuously and dynamically. I wonder where it starts to grow and what stops it from growing.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.