PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a plan. Istanbul is going to be the financial capital of the world. It could a blip in the translation, but my version says “THE financial capital,” forget New York, London, Hong Kong, think: Istanbul. But this capitalism won’t come cheap for Turks. Their capital city is taking a hit of uber-modernization as it (unrelated to the PM’s worldly aspirations) grows it’s way to being a megalopolis and the current PM and money hungry developers are no help. In fact, it seems that the historic preservation regulations that have been in place for decades are no help either!
This was brought to my attention this morning by a story on npr which i subsequently looked up and learned about a very interesting documentary featuring Istanbul called Ecumenopolis (I’ll save that discussion for another day).
Meanwhile, I am in the middle of reading a book for class titled Preserving the World’s Great Cities in which Anthony Tung says of Istanbul that already “the skyline that was once made up of domes and minarets of mosques is now dominated by looming and massive modern hotels.”
Similar to the reconfiguring of cities that went on in Paris in the mid-1800s, and the general flattening of blocks and blocks of existing buildings for the sake of a few 1960s high rises and a multitude of parking spaces, Istanbul is reconfiguring herself to fit the deep pockets of her middle and upperclass guides. Maximization of commercial space/income-producing properties is a priority. Developers are seizing greenspace and the PM is scheming to direct traffic into the last of the metropolis’ forests while locals are suspicious he plans to convert an architectural gem of a public train station into a shopping mall. Meanwhile new developments and gated communities spring up for the wealthy and the poor are crammed into high rise projects to maximize land value and revenue.
One particularly creative twist on the part of developers involves a city park mentioned in the npr story. There has been a park here since the 1940s when an Ottoman army barracks was abandoned and demolished. After years of coveting this prime real estate, someone finally got the brilliant idea to use Turkey’s law of preserving historic buildings to develop it and so, says the director of the Ecumenopolis film, “in order to protect this already-demolished building, they’re rebuilding it… They’re saying their preserving” something that is already gone, making a reconstruction which will, actually, serve as a shopping mall. Oy vey.
What will happen when these capitalist hogs wake up though and find there are too many malls in the historic shells of once-useful buildings, too many to meet the small demand of the few who can eek their way into a city by car or bus on the overpacked roads where not a green thing is in sight. what then?