Istanbul (1956-1961)/Rethinking Menderes: An Injudicious Pro-Americanist Or A Visionary

The Redevelopment Act of Istanbul in 1956 was criticized for the destructive impact it left to the residential buildings and urban fabric of Istanbul’s European Peninsular. Menderes, the prime minister of Turkey who was in charge of the plan, was blamed for causing turbulence in the city by forceful and willful expropriation of residents in the planned development area. The devastating effect the demolition works had on the city was exactly the opposite of his target of glorifying Istanbul, as stated in his proposal to appeal the mass.

Though Menderes’s plan has resulted in huge damage to the city, one should not claim that the plan, prioritizing transportation problems and extending into a regional scale, was absolutely unsuccessful. And Menderes, at the same time, was far from an injudicious, American-minded prime minister who ordered the redevelopment merely for the sake of political showcasing. Despite the executive failure, the planning proposal demonstrates Menderes’s insightful consideration of the future development of Istanbul.

Menderes pointing at a model of the bridge across the Golden Horn, a strait dividing the European Peninsular of Istanbul. Source: YTU, Urban and Regional Planning

Menderes envisioned Istanbul as an international city closely connected to the world economic and political dynamics. An imminent population boom along with a surge of automobile number will undoubtedly cause congestions, making traffic optimization imperative. Taking Istanbul’s urban sprawl into consideration, Menderes was clearly aware of the upcoming problems brought by over-population. Relying on road making, Menderes aimed to formulate an efficient transportation network based on the original urban fabric while the roads, whose patterns are to be regulated according to the proposed major boulevards, can help to regularize the pattern of domestic constructions thus avoid the problems caused by under-equipped, spontaneous construction of temporary residential houses.

Growth of industrial and residential districts of Istanbul. Since 1950 Istanbul has witnessed a rapid urban sprawl, bringing large influx of population. Source: Kocabas, Arzu. (2010). Kartal urban regeneration project: challenges, opportunities and prospects for the future. 571-582.

The execution of the Redevelopment Act was halted by the 1960 military coup overthrowing the Democrat Party (DP). By then the plan, not yet proceeding to the stage of reconstruction, had already stirred numbers of complaints from Istanbul citizens for its Haussmann-style demolition work carried out. Financial resources were depleted, and Menderes was charged negligence of duties other than supervising the redevelopment of Istanbul. It could be fair to comment that Menderes, having comparable enthusiasm and ambition to Haussmann, failed to gain equal support from government finance and the people. Istanbul and Turkey in Menderes’s hands, compared to Paris and France at Haussmann’s time, was not fully prepared for an exhausting operation at urban scale as such.




Ayataç, Hatiçe. “The international diffusion of planning ideas: The case of Istanbul, Turkey.” Journal of Planning History 6, no. 2 (2007): 114-137.

Gencer, Ebru A. The interplay between urban development, vulnerability, and risk management: A case study of the Istanbul metropolitan area. Vol. 7. Springer Science & Business Media, 2013.

Gül, Murat. Architecture and the Turkish City: An Urban History of Istanbul since the Ottomans 2017.

Gül, Murat. The Emergence of Modern Istanbul: Transformation and Modernisation of a City. New York: Tauris Academic Studies. 2009.

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