Istanbul / Reforming the city’s landscape

1950 onwards migrants from rural Turkey moved into Istanbul in search for jobs. The settlements created by the migrating population were locally known as ‘Gecekondus’, which were like squatter houses – a form of informal housing (Image 1). The houses were built by the migrants near numerous small industries and motorways for easy access.

The urban landscape changed drastically and evolved through the following three phases: at first, new neighborhoods began to be formed in the proximity of historical urban cores, government buildings, highways, and industrial plants when the immigrant population was much more than expected. The migrants who hoped to find an opportunity to work started to build up their own gecekondu dwellings on the outskirts of the city even though they did not necessarily find a job right away. In the second stage, these initial neighborhoods were no longer on the periphery of the city; they became surrounded by the newly implemented commercial, industrial, and residential neighborhoods. In the last phase, the first pattern was repeated; the excessive number of immigrants settled down around the regions close to the new workplaces, but on the other hand, with the price increase in real estate in the urban center, the initial gecekondu settlements either grew in height or were demolished to create open space for the new developments.


Image 1: Early phase of Gecekondu settlement in Istanbul


Image 2. The various gecekondu settlements around the Istanbul Motorway. Photos by Gizem Akdoğan.



  1. Akdogan, Gizem., Marwan. Ghandour, Claire. Cardinal-Pett, Hsain. Ilahiane, and Iowa State University. Architecture. Dealing with Rapid Development [electronic Resource]: Creation of the Informal Urban Economy and Gecekondu Housing in Istanbul.

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