8/25/14

Istanbul In Crisis Because Of Changing Architecture


The Turkish Council of State ruled that three massive skyscrapers recently built in the city's Zeytinburnu district must be destroyed. Zeytinburnu is a working class region just outside Istanbul's old city walls. The financial repercussions of this ruling will be very great, as the luxury high-rises have already been reportedly rented out.

"Activists and intellectuals" complained that the buildings ruined important views of sites such as the Blue Mosque, which is actually located a good three miles away.

Istanbul is renown for its preservation of architecture and culture, making it one of the most interesting cities in the world. Naturally the people don't want to change it. But the roots of this unrest go deeper.

Last year's protests over the development of Gezi Park grew into the largest protests in recent history after a brutal police crackdown. The Occupy movements all over the Middle East emboldened the lower classes to speak out against the destruction of a local park. Protesters for other causes such as authoritarianism of government and the war in Syria joined in. Protests over immigration from Syria still continue.

The similarity to America's controversy swirling around Jane Jacobs in the 1960s is striking. Old neighborhoods were being bulldozed to make room for government-controlled buildings. Communities were frequently uprooted and preferential treatment given to the rich. America may have given up trying to fight government abuse of eminent domain, but Turkey is only starting to wake up to it. A Turkish union promised last weekend it will to go to international courts to stop construction of a government complex on an environmentally protected zone.


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