Istanbul (1956-1961)/Turkish Architect Circle During The Era Of Redevelopment: Cultural Awareness Or Chauvinism

The attitude of Turkish architect circle towards Menderes’s Redevelopment Act changed from optimism at its first announcement towards fierce criticism in the end after the military coup overthrowing Menderes and the Democrat Party (DP). Such dramatic switch does not suggest an upheaval in the thinking of Turkish architects. In fact, their cling to cultural identity of Turkey and the strong desire to preserve such identity through conservation have heavily influenced their evaluation of urban plans.

Though the primary aim of Turkish architects was to preserve the historical value of Istanbul, such insistence on Turkish identity might be biased and leaning towards chauvinism. Before Menderes’s Redevelopment Act, there were a few urban plans produced by foreign planners in the early 1950s after Prost’s departure, mostly rejected by Turkish architect circle for their disregards of the historical context of Istanbul. Henri Prost, the predecessor of Menderes who first broached the issue of traffic optimization and introduced the notion of boulevard network into the planning of Istanbul, was equally criticized of being culturally insensitive to superimpose tremendous wide roads onto the existing urban fabric. Following Prost’s tradition of boulevard making, Menderes’s plan, however, received wide appraisal from the magazines and newspaper articles written by Turkish architects. Despite that the presence of previous foreign plans might prepare Turkish architects for accepting boulevard construction over the historical structure of Istanbul and that Menderes’s plan was less radical than Prost’s, the repulsion against foreign planners, more precisely, foreign intervention, is far from peripherical a reason of Turkish architects’ final agreement to Menderes’s proposal.

Menderes’s major constructions during 1956-1960
Prost’s latest plan in 1951 before his departure. It shares similar features in the organization of road network with Menderes’s plan.

The skepticism attitude of Turkish architect circle towards foreign interventions might find its origin in the preconception of Turkey being coveted by superpowers because of its advantageous location. The breaking up of Ottoman state still haunted the Turkish in 1950s. Under the influence of such subconscious insecurity, Turkish architect tended to be reserved about urban plans and conceptions introduced by foreign planners and inclining towards the plans of local planners, although the underlying principles of both types of plans highly resemble each other.

 

 

Reference

Altinyildiz, Nur. “The Architectural Heritage of Istanbul and the Ideology of Preservation.” Muqarnas 24 (2007): 281-305.

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

Barkey, Henri J. “Turkey and the Great Powers.” In Turkey’s Engagement with Modernity, pp. 239-257. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010.

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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