This is our second post about Taksim Square.
For city planners and architects looking in from the outside there are two issues; 1) what are the merits of the development proposals for Taksim Square; and 2) did Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality consult civic groups and organizations representing business owners and residents of the area before commencing construction? The answer to both questions is a resounding No.
First, the merits of the proposal: A picture is worth a thousand words. The picture above shows a recent Google Map aerial view of the Taksim Square and Gezi Park area. The first rendering below shows the original plan for Taksim Square as proposed by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality: note the 3-story shopping mall in the left hand corner that was supposed to replace Gezi Park.
The second version of the same plan (below) is enhanced with few patches of grass to appease the critics and was posted on the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality site after the outcry over the loss of green space in Gezi Park.
The Landscape Architecture Magazine posted two animated versions of the massive reconstruction and development plans for Taksim Square on their website: I find both horrendous. The plans are geared more towards traffic re-routing and road construction than about creating a great public space for Istanbul. The Taksim Square redesign as presented in these plans has no architectural merit to speak of. I wonder if students at Istanbul Technical University would have done a better job than the planners at Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality?
The second question is: did anyone bother to consult the residents, business owners and community members before embarking on redoing one of the most iconic and popular public spaces in the city? The answer again is no.
At a panel discussion on urban transformation in February, city planner İlhan Tekeli criticized Erdoğan for disregarding the urban plan painstakingly created for Istanbul with the input of some 400 experts. “Pluralistic democracy in Turkey will not mean anything if the Taksim barracks are reconstructed,” he said.
Tanbay agrees. “There’s been zero public process, zero public support, zero public information,” she says. “We tried to have a dialogue with the municipality; we didn’t say that nothing should be changed [at Taksim]. We said, let’s discuss it together. As citizens, we deserve to be part of the plans — we don’t want them to be made behind doors and declared during construction.”
(The Atlantic Cities/213/05)
The Gezi Park in Taksim Square, slated to be replaced by a new shopping mall, is barely nine-acres. Istanbul has only 1.5% of land area devoted to parks and green space as opposed to 14% in New York City or 38% in London. The current Prime Minister of Turkey, and former Mayor of Istanbul probably wants to see the city to be at par with other international cities. But one thing many New Yorkers are proud of is their Parks, not the West Side Highway or the Roosevelt Drive. Similarly, Paris is known for its beautiful parks and open spaces which draw people from all over the world. If Istanbul is going to stand in competition with Paris or London, it needs to create and maintain beautiful public parks and spaces.
A previous Post: Taksim Square: To whom does this public space belong?