Thanks to Dr. Serpil Çerçi of Çukurova Üniversity, Shoreditch Station features as an example of ‘çevre duyarli mimarlik’ or environmentally sensitive architecture in the 50th anniversary edition of Mimarlik, the Turkish architectural magazine.

The theme of çevre duyarli mimarlik, is increasingly important given the rapid pace at which the Turkish government has launched urban redevelopment projects. The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised an array of mega-projects including a 25-mile canal between the Black and the Marmara seas as well as two new cities on both sides of the Bosporus, each housing at least 1 million people – the centre of his election campaign.

“We need to face it,” Topbas said in a press conference after the devastating 2011 earthquakes in Van that killed 644 people, “we need to rebuild the entire city.”

Now the Turkish government is preparing a new law that will grant the prime minister and the public housing development administration sole decisive power over which areas will be developed, and how. The law will overrule all other preservation and protection regulations, and allow the government to declare any area in Turkey a zone of risk. Affected house-owners will have the choice of either demolishing their buildings themselves, or letting the government do it for them – in exchange for compensation. The law’s advocates argue that it will enable the government to make cities safer against the ever-present risk of earthquakes without a lengthy legal process. However, a growing number of critics point out that it will serve as a pretext to open valuable land to speculation, and drive low-income groups from city centres.

And the government’s appetite for ever more ambitious development projects is not likely to be sated in the near future. According to the Turkish Contractors Association’s predictions, the construction sector, which contributes about 6% to the economy, faces decline and much fiercer competition abroad in 2012: domestic urban renewal projects, estimated to generate £250bn of profit – £55bn in Istanbul alone – are seen as a convenient alternative. Professor Gülsen Özaydin, head of the urban planning department at the Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts Istanbul, says: “There is no urban planning that sees the city as a whole. Projects are completely detached from one another, and take no heed of the existing urban fabric, or the people living there. That’s very dangerous for the future of a city.”

According to Resistanbul, the demolition of Gezi Park – the issue which sparked the current protests – is a part of a wider urban redevelopment project in Istanbul that includes building a shopping centre which Erdogan says would not be “a traditional mall”, but rather would include cultural centres, an opera house and a mosque. The plan also includes rebuilding an Ottoman-era military barracks near the site and demolishing the historic Ataturk Cultural Centre and some see this as having historic symbolism, as the barracks were the cradle of a pro-Islamic, pro-Ottoman mutiny in 1909.


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