Istanbul/ Espace Libre and Secularism Under Turkification

Project of a park and a yatch club on Fenerbahçe peninsula, signed Théo Leveau and approved by Henri Prost.

The promotion of Espace Libre(Open spaces)is one of the most important principles of the Prost plan. By designing a series of parks, Prost meant to “put women and children out of their kafes”. We could trace the political idea of Prost towards the modernization of Istanbul, which is echoing with Kemal’s promotion of secularism. Public parks created a locus that brought men, women and children together. Therefore, it broke the separation of men and women in the Ottoman era. To some extent, it showed the intention of creating a mixed, equal, and republic society of a ‘secular’ state.

However, equality and secularism Prost were conflictive to a broader political context. In the late 19th century, nationalism appeared on the land of the ottoman empire, and the empire began to split into several nations according to ethnics. After the establishment of the Republic, the Turkish nationalism became even dominated. For example, in 1922, there is a mutual expulsion of orthodox Greeks. In Bursa, the municipal government ‘passed a decree banning the uses of languages other than Turkish in public.’ The series of acts stressed the strong sense of exclusive national identity of Turkey, and at the same time, intensified the social inequality.

Although Prost tried to promote the western modern ideology of democracy and equality through his planning strategy, and the Kemal government was also promoting secular reform, they both failed, or reluctant to bring equality between different ethnics. There was absolutely achievements in seeking of secularism and equality, for example, the recognition of the rights of voting and eligibility for women in 1934. However, due to the Turkification context, the modernization of Turkey had its own limitations, or in other words, had its own domestic feature.




Houston, C. (2018). Shaping the city: three urban events in Istanbul. İdealKent, 9(24), 342-363.

Tekeli, S. (2010). The Turkish women’s movement: A brief history of success. Quaderns de la Mediterania14, 119-123.


1 Comment on “Istanbul/ Espace Libre and Secularism Under Turkification

  1. This Open Space concept was critical in the understanding of Prost’s social-leveling agenda. You have made a very positive connection between the forms produced for the city and the social agenda of liberating women and children from the inequalities they had previously endured. And of course, this “western” ideal was to suffer from one form of backlash or another. Good analysis.

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