″Reclaim Istanbul!″ – policy vs. architecture

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″Reclaim Istanbul!″ - policy vs. architecture

″Reclaim Istanbul!″ - policy vs. architecture

Istanbul is an enormous building site. Large-scale construction projects are underway across the city. The city that is already home to millions continues to grow beyond its capacity, and must expand. For example, a third airport is in the planning, a third bridge over the Bosphorus, not to mention a canal right through the heart of the city. At the same time, Istanbul is to become smarter and more contemporary. Entire neighbourhoods are being torn down or redeveloped.

The AKP launched this gigantic demolition and redevelopment project, which is a joint venture involving the public sector and private investors, in 2004. But there has been growing criticism of this ″urban transformation project″, resulting in the Gezi protests of the summer of 2013. Demonstrations were held over plans to build a shopping mall on the city’s central Taksim Square.

Yelta Kom and Hasan Cenk Dereli were among those who took part in these 2013 rallies. Both architects are founders of the non-profit organisation Herkes Icin Mimarlik, or ″architecture for all″. Their chief issue with current urban policy is that it is not transparent, but that it is being ″imposed from above″. But even more important to them is the question of what is happening in places that, unlike Taksim Square, are not in the spotlight. In remote rural areas, for example.

In 2011, together with a couple of fellow students, they founded the organisation aimed at finding architectural solutions to social problems. Today, hundreds of volunteers work on a variety of projects. These range from seminars on the establishment of parks and playgrounds, right through to the re-design of empty buildings into schools equipped for the disabled. All participation is on a voluntary basis and financed through donations. Both men, who are in their early 30s, believe that architecture should be inclusive – geared towards the particular needs of the people. []

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