Quo Vadis, Istanbul?

Quo Vadis, Istanbul?

April 2012

Prime Minister Erdogan entered the Turkish political scene in 1994 as the elected Mayor of Istanbul. Since then, Istanbul has been governed by mayors who shared Erdogan’s ideological stance, and specifically by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) since 2002. AKP has been enjoying a very strong majority in the city council.
It is common knowledge in Turkey that Erdogan has a very solid influence on Istanbul’s governing. The metropolis is Turkey’s local and international hub of investment with very high yields, especially on the real estate front. Lately, historical buildings and precious land around the city are systematically being converted into luxurious hotels, business towers and malls, initiated by the Municipality.
Today Istanbul is governed by an architect: Kadir Topbas. Istanbul Municipality is often accused of having a tendency to ignore historical, cultural and social factors in planning and transforming the city.
On March18, 2012, a group of renowned architects united their voices for the future of Istanbul. They published an open letter addressing the mayor, in a national newspaper, Radikal. The exact translation of the letter follows:

We are a group of 40 architects. We do not represent a professional association or an institution. We are not supporters of a specific political party, or an ideology. Never before have we gathered together for any other purpose. Each of us has been born and raised in different parts of Turkey. We also have things in common; such as being architects, and living in Istanbul.

Today, Istanbul is being used up irresponsibly by its inheritors. Irreversible steps are being taken without any consideration. It is increasingly becoming a distant dream to have an Istanbul decked up with real parks and public areas along its coastline, centres, and avenues.

In an effort to share these opinions and thoughts, we have made an official request for an appointment from our professional colleague, Mr. Kadir Topbas. We did not get a response. Therefore here we are adressing to you.

As architects, we have no desire or claim to undertake the duties of a prime minister, a mayor or a minister. We also expect from those who hold these positions not to be eager to perform the roles of others. We think that the arbitrary shaping of cities and countries by their administrators is an approach that belongs to an age which is now long past. Important decisions regarding the city must not be imposed and pursued as fait accompli. We do not want to witness Istanbul’s future being shaped through anonymous projects, and read about this future in newspapers, see its simulated graphics created by unknown sources, follow it on TV panels, or hear about it in official statements.

A case that clearly illustrates this approach of the administrators has been on the public agenda for weeks: Taksim Project. Our invitation to Mr. Topbas is this: Taksim is not a bastion for anyone in a position of power to put up a flag. Taksim is the center of Istanbul, treasured by everyone; it is the backdrop of memories, calamities, photographs, celebrations, and postcards. It is a central point not only of Istanbul, but of the world. Regardless of the duration of its transformation, it must turn into a contemporary place that will make us proud, unite us, represent Istanbul, not through its quantification but qualification. This is only possible through collective thought and action. Taksim is only the beginning. Let the collective step taken today for Taksim change the destiny of other districts in Istanbul, such as Uskudar, Besiktas, and Kadikoy.

Let us shape Istanbul through participatory and collective wisdom.



Ipek Akpınar

Murat Aksu

Burak Altınısık

Deniz Aslan

Emin Balkış

Sevince Bayrak

Sedat Bayrak

Ömer Selçuk Baz

Özgür Bingöl

Elvan Calışkan

Alişan Çırakoglu

Ufuk Demirgüç

Alper Derinboğaz

Bünyamin Derman

Ali Eray

Arzu Erdem

Eylem Erdinç

Ismail Kerem Erginoğlu

Mert Eyiler

Ervin Garip

Oral Göktaş

Korhan Gümüş

Doğu Kaptan

Selva Gürdoğan Thomsen

Tunde Tülin Hadi

Cem İlhan

Ahmet Arda İnceoğlu

Umut Iyigün

Hüseyin Lütfü Kahvecioğlu

Haydar Karabey

Cem Kozar

Ahmet Turan Köksal

Emine Merdim Yılmaz

Meriç Öner

Sibel Özdoğan

Nurbin Paker Kahvecioğlu

Nevzat Sayın

Cem Sorguç

Murat Şahin

Hakan Tüzün Şengün

Ertuğ Uçar

Aydan Volkan

Burçin Yıldırım

Ömer Yılmaz

İpek Yürekli

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