VOL: 8  NO: 1  1-9   2011-1


Urban transformation: Controversies, contrasts and challenges



Nuran ZEREN GÜLERSOY1-2, Zeynep GÜNAY1,Turgay Kerem KORAMAZ1, Buket ÖNEM2


1 Istanbul Technical University Faculty of Architecture, Istanbul TURKEY

2 ITU, Urban and Environmental Planning and Research Centre, Istanbul, TURKEY



The International Planning History Society (IPHS) is a professional society that aims to promote open, interdisciplinary, “town-and-down” dialogue between all those interested in past, present, and future urban and regional planning. Its membership is drawn from several disciplines including planning, design, architecture, economic and social history, geography, sociology, environmental studies, politics and all their associated fields. It is a society that promotes both multi-disciplinary and practice-oriented studies and research, and its membership is open to all who have a working interest in planning and planning history to encourage and give support to networks based on personal interest, or on regional/national boundaries. (


The Society was established in January 1993 as a successor to the Planning History Group which was founded in England in 1974. It encourages the studies of planning history worldwide; supports interest groups and place-based networks in the various fields of planning history; publishes the journal of “Planning Perspectives”; organizes international conferences; and provides an international network for member contact. Among these, the large biannual international conferences remain the main focus of the Society’s academic activity. Since the early 1990s, international conferences have been arranged in different parts of the world, beginning in 1994 in Hong Kong, and then in Thessalonica, Sydney, Helsinki, London, Barcelona, New Delhi and in Chicago. In the IPHS 2008 Chicago Conference, Istanbul was selected as the host city and Istanbul Technical University as the host institution for the 14th IPHS 2010 Conference. The 2010 IPHS Conference coincides with the celebration of Istanbul as the Capital of Culture in Europe.


With regard to the selection of the themes of previous IPHS conferences in accordance to enable a unifying and a specific theme to the host city, “Urban Transformation: Controversies, Contrasts and Challenges” was chosen to be the theme of the IPHS 2010 Conference to cover the most recent planning issues that Istanbul – as the host city – deals with. Istanbul, one of the largest cities in the world, once the focal point of worldwide trading, and the capital city for the Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman Empires was chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2010. Istanbul has been in transition throughout its more than eight thousand years of history. The choice of Istanbul as the conference city has provided an excellent opportunity for the conference theme due to its massive expansion and transformation processes, and to explore different aspects of transformation in planning history not only for Istanbul but also across the world. During the recent globalization period, Istanbul has also become the focus for a number of urban transformation initiatives, which have brought an unprecedented level of challenges in planning, urban governance, cultural and social structure, historic preservation and many other related areas.


Urban transformation, as one of the major issues throughout planning history, has had new dimensions attached to it within the context of rapid urbanization and globalization process. The conference theme has provided
a window for a broad investigation of urban transformation aspects in planning history, engaging the sub-themes of:

The conference has been considered to be a major contribution to Istanbul’s present and future urban transformation process, and to related theoretical and practical issues in universal literature. It is of major importance today to share professional and academic knowledge and expertise across the world. The IPHS 2010 Conference was a showcase for valuable contributions by researchers and practitioners from many parts of the world in order to deal with the controversies, contrasts and challenges that cities have been facing to ensure a sustainable future.


There were 410 participants from 42 different countries, including 4 continents of the world. 78 of the participants were IPHS members. The numbers from the host country reflected the usual IPHS experience whereby nearly 25% of the participants were local participants. In addition, 12.5% of the participants were from the next host country, Brazil. The major contributions were from USA (6.3%), Australia (4.8%), Italy and the UK (4.6%) and Japan (4.1%). When looking at these figures, it is important to mention that there were 97 student participants at graduate or undergraduate level. 5 of these students were IPHS members.


The IPHS 2010 Conference consisted of valuable contributions from researchers and practitioners from many parts of the world. The contents of the conference were carefully prepared in order to provide the participants with a good overview of the latest approaches. The organization committee and the IPHS society were very pleased with the high quality of the papers submitted and by the range of perspectives on planning and planning history that were addressed during the conference. There were 321 presentations; 7 of which were invited speakers, 240 of which were in parallel sessions, 50 in special sessions and 24 in young researchers’ sessions. The distribution of the 240 papers presented at the 46 parallel sessions according their themes was as follows: Planning Culture: 38 Papers, Heritage Sites: 28 Papers, Planning Models: 27 Papers, Public Space and Landscape: 27 Papers, Emerging Concepts under Urban Transformation: 16 Papers, Urban Form and Architecture: 37 Papers, Urban Space: 10 Papers, Strategies, Policies and Tools: 10 Papers, Economy and Finance: 6 Papers, Industrial and Commercial Districts: 15 Papers, Urban Management: 16 Papers, Social Justice: 10 Papers. The Conference Proceedings were published and contained 126 full papers which were accepted through a blind peer review process.


This special issue of the A|Z ITU Journal of the Faculty of Architecture is designed around 14 selected papers that were presented at the 14th International Planning History Society Conference in order to depict the urban transformation issues both in theory and by examining world-wide cases. The selection of this wide range of papers has provided a broad investigation of urban transformation aspects in planning history, engaging theoretical discussions on emerging concepts under urban transformation, planning cultures and planning models; urban transformation strategies, policies, tools; and empirical papers including case studies from Turkey, Europe, Oceania, Asia, the former Soviet Union and Africa. All selected articles were reviewed according to A|Z publication rules.


Within the context of theoretical discussions on emerging concepts under urban transformation, planning cultures and planning models, Prof. Dr. Nuran ZEREN GÜLERSOY and Ebru GÜRLER’s article entitled “Conceptual Challenges on Urban Transformation” puts forward a discussion on the complexity of the concept of urban transformation and urban change in the planning history focused on the urbanization processes. The purpose of this study is to resolve the changes in theory and practice of urban transformation, and to reconsider diversified approaches in urban transformation by explaining it in an inter-disciplinary manner.


There are four articles that discuss urban transformation strategies, policies and tools through diverse case studies. These articles, which were presented by Prof. Robert FREESTONE, Marco AMATI, Prof. John Gordon HUNT, and Dr. Tan YÝÐÝTCANLAR, emphasize town planning culture, urban renewal in waterfront areas and knowledge-based urban development processes, specifically in Oceania. Robert FREESTONE and Marco AMATI describe the role of Australian planning exhibitions in the evolution of a national planning agenda in the first half of the 20th century in their article “Exhibitions and Town Planning Culture: An Australian Perspective”. To explain the context by using a historical analysis, the article concludes with reflections on changing national planning culture by means of planning exhibitions. John Gordon HUNT, in his article “Urban Renewal, Master Planning and Design Information Management: A New Zealand Waterfront Case Study”, outlines an urban renewal case-study held in Auckland, New Zealand in accordance with information management in the planning and design process. His research article analyses collaborative decision-making and the problem-focused design brief development approach to achieving creative design works undertaken in workshops. Listed among the headlines of the conference theme, the article is directly related with the “urban transformation strategies and tools in management and governance” that HUNT reports as being an effective and productive collaborative process in the decision-making process of urban renewal projects. Tan YIGITCANLAR’s article, “Knowledge-Based Urban Development Processes of an Emerging Knowledge City: Brisbane, Australia”, discusses urban transformation issue in accordance with an emerging concept, the “knowledge-based urban development assessment framework”. He introduces this concept in order to describe the Brisbane case with knowledge-based development processes and the knowledge city transformation experience. In his article, he reports that transformation into a knowledge city will be challenged if the facts on global orientation and achievements of the city are considered and guided by rational strategic visions incorporated with attracting knowledge from industries and stakeholders.


Next four articles, presented by Prof. Dr. Emmanuel MARMARAS and Dr. Savvas TSILENIS, Prof. Vilma HASTAOGLOU-MARTINIDIS, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Cana BÝLSEL, Asst. Prof. Dr. Yonca KÖSEBAY ERKAN, and Prof. Dr. E.Füsun ALÝOÐLU, evaluate urban transformation processes with valuable contributions to the representation of large-scale urban regeneration projects. Emmanuel MARMARAS and Savvas TSILENIS aim to reveal the similarities and differences of planning experiences between two capital cities in two neighbouring governments at the beginning of the 20th century; Athens in the Kingdom of Greece and Istanbul in the Ottoman Empire. The article, which is entitled “Parallel Routes: Proposals for Large Scale Projects in the Centres of Athens and Istanbul at the Beginning of the 20th Century”, contributes to transformation issues not only in terms of planning in historical perspectives but also with planning and design culture represented by the urban form and architecture of the cities. Cana BÝLSEL contributes this special issue with an article that illustrates a significant period of planning history in Istanbul: “Transformation of Istanbul by Henri Prost”. Her article deals with the transformative approach of a significant plan in Istanbul which was prepared by Henry Prost, who was invited to prepare the master plan of Istanbul. The article gives important notes and remarks on the definition and interpretation of the term “transformation” by Prost such as interventionist attitudes in the context of master planning through the exploration of planning tools and transformation models in Istanbul. Yonca KÖSEBAY-ERKAN and Füsun ALÝOÐLU present the theme “urban transformation in heritage sites” in an article based on the topic of contradiction between documentary values in historic sites and urban transformation projects. Vilma HASTAOGLOU-MARTINIDIS examines the Golden Horn docks, which are claimed to be one of the important modernisation projects in the planning history of Istanbul, in her article entitled “The Building of Istanbul Docks 1870-1910. Some New Entrepreneurial and Cartographic Data”. The article introduces the docks as representing a new architectural aesthetic and modern construction technology, which is also significant as they are also an example of an early form of zoning in the city and creating rational site organisation.


Dr. William Harrison RICHARDSON covers the planning and transformation of a Soviet City “Vladivostok” under the socialist period in his article “Planning a Model Soviet City: Transforming Vladivostok under Stalin and Brezhnev”. He examines two major projects for transforming the city of Vladivostok during Soviet times; one from the 1930s and the other from the 1960s. While these periods become significant breaking points in universal planning agenda, failures and successes from these projects illuminate the preceding periods in respect to the ideological meaning of space, living standards and urban quality of life.


Urban planning and transformation issues in Asian cities are discussed in three selected articles by Prof. Shun-ichi J. WATANABE, Yuheng LI and Seungyeoun CHO. Their articles evaluate urban transformation by examining new trends and redevelopment projects in China, Korea and Japan. Shun-ichi J. WATANABE examines the Japanese Planning System by focusing on reformation and participation issues in his article “A Historical and Comparative Analysis of the Basic Character of the Japanese Planning System: Toward a drastic reform for Decentralization and Participation”. This article determines the reform in the Japanese planning system in terms of “decentralization” and “participation” while concluding with the necessity of master planning and management in a holistic approach. In his article, Watanabe, discusses the “Centralised Bureaucracy” in accordance with its policies and agenda which are constituted not only by the enhancement of the authority, but also by a denial of masterplanning.


Yuheng LI outlines the shift in urban transformation from a centrally-planned economy to a market economy through decentralization and urban autonomy in China in his article “The Complexity of Urban Transformation in China: New Trends in Current Transitional Era”. Identifying the most important challenge as coping with this transformation, this article focuses on the defined complexity and mismatch between fast urban development and insufficient urban planning and management framework. Another case study, representing Asian planning experience, is Seungyeoun CHO’s article “Urban Transformation of Seoul and Tokyo by Legal Redevelopment Project”. The article determines governmental efforts and legal systems in order to demonstrate the transformation of Seoul and Tokyo, with respect to the theme of “urban transformation strategies, policies, tools, urban management and governance”.


The remaining articles were selected as case studies from Africa and America, and which were presented by Prof. Errol HAARHOFF, Prof. Marisol RODRIGUEZ and Prof. Hector RIVERO. Errol HAARHOFF, in his article “Appropriating Modernism: Apartheid and the South African Township” emphasizes the themes of social inequality and institutional segregation based on the urban spatial structures and processes in South Africa according to its colonial history. The article outlines the fundamental approach in which the modern movement provided a rationale for advancing a low-cost mass housing program in South Africa, the roots of which had their formation in its colonial past. This housing program was evaluated in order to respond the “Urban transformation and society” conference theme, in relation to the spatial segregation and the emergence of the apartheid city in the 1960s. Marisol RODRIGUEZ and Hector RIVERO focus on an urban plan for Ciudad Juarez in Mexico City in their article “Pronaf, Ciudad Juarez: Planning and Urban Transformation” by examining urban planning and transformation conflicts and limitations. The article illustrates a discussion through the regulatory and integration urban plans in Mexico City which were developed within the framework of a regional and planning initiative; the National Border Program – ProNaF which aimed to develop an integrated development model. The article is significant due to its investigations based on the planning experiences of the 1960s and their effect on the transformation of the city.


Regarding these selected articles, the 14th International Planning History Society Conference Special Issue of the ITU A|Z Journal of the Faculty of Architecture is an attempt to present diverse approaches, methodologies and implications on urban transformation and planning history through the demonstration of different case studies in different urban and time scales. Since the conference theme of urban transformation was reported to be an appropriate choice for a conference held in Istanbul, this special issue introduces these valuable articles to accomplish an inclusive publication welcoming a diversity of approaches and opinions.


Below, there are opinions shared by the planning history scholars about the conference from two conference reviews published in two outstanding journals: The Journal of Planning History and Town Planning Review (Miller et al., jph2011: 87-94, Larkham, tpr2010:707-710):


"As a setting for a planning history conference, it was perfect. But how did conference participants judge the event? To provide some perspective on the Istanbul gathering, several members of the JPH Editorial Advisory Broad agreed to share their experience. As you will read below, the conference proved to be a phenomenal experience on many levels for this group of planning history scholars." (Miller et al., jph2011: 87)


“Planning history has always been very good at studying transitions, which tend to be incremental, inevitable, and slow moving. This conference’s importance was in stressing and studying the importance of transformations, more fast-paced, less predictable. But, we also need to be alerted to the power of planning history as transformative, that is studying and unleashing the power and importance of interventions and community insurgencies driven to change for the better the social, economic, and environmental conditions under which we live. The best planning of the past has had that goal; it must continue to attract our concern in the contemporary world too. […] In conclusion: The .urban transformations in planning history. track delivered a bunch of papers that are not only substantive, specialist contributions in their own right but together raise many more fundamental issues for the field of planning history. The overall conference theme of .urban transformations. was a great, smart choice. It was both inclusive in welcoming a diversity of approaches and opinions, yet still compelling enough to offer a sharpness of focus. It was just one dimension that helped make a landmark conference.” (Robert Freestone, in Miller et al., jph2011: 88-91)


“Where to begin? IPHS’s Istanbul conference was memorable in so many ways. Here are three points from the perspective of an English participant. The international mix, with its preponderance of scholars from Brazil, Turkey, the Mediterranean, and the Far East, was intensely stimulating. Anglocentric narratives were refreshingly absent and the name of Sir Ebenezer Howard hardly uttered. We explored new and fascinating transequatorial crossings of planners and urban ideas. And this was the first IPHS conference with a sustained focus on the paradoxical planning histories of illegal and unauthorized development, squatting, and the cities of the poor. Back in 2008 at the Chicago council meeting of the International Planning History, I had expressed reservations about Prof Nuran Zeren Gülersoy’s call for papers. Surely, I said, an entire planning history conference cannot be constructed out of the controversies, contrasts, and challenges of urban transformation? How wrong that was! Istanbul has sustained annual population growth of a third of a million since 2000. From the moment we arrived, transformation was all around us. Such extraordinary ongoing metamorphoses we saw on the field trips—garden cities into business parks, industrial estates into central business districts, squatter areas into apartment clusters. Even greater changes will come as the wave or urbanization continues to roll toward the mid-century. …. Most memorable of all, perhaps, was the physical setting for our conversations and debates—the gigantic stone-flagged corridors and stairways of the Taþkýþla (1854)…. Best of all was the presence of ITU planning students, whose home this is. Lucky them. I came away thinking that the quality of their displayed work promises well for the controversies, contrasts, and challenges ahead.” (Michael Hebbert, in Miller et al., jph2011: 92)


“Istanbul and the conference were lovely, but the field trips were highlights for me. The boat tours up the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn were great ways to see a large transect of the metropolitan area. Also, I joined a small post conference tour to Ephesus, which was a delight. Visiting this Roman/Greek city had been on my list for decades. In the evening after the tour, we discovered that we were only 20 km from Miletus, home town of the early Greek planner Hippodamus. We were also close to Priene, one of his most prominent planned communities. Hippodamus had planned the port city Piraeus, near Athens, and I had completely forgotten that his Greek home was now part of Anatolia. So when we discovered that our Ephesus tour ended only 20 km from Miletus, we had a small revolution among the planning history professors on the package tour: a day of shopping was swiftly changed into more touring.” (David Gordon, in Miller et al., jph2011: 92)


“My only previous encounter with Istanbul was in 1973, and the conference provided a wonderful opportunity to revisit. […] The main impressions were of transformation and it was wholly understandable that the conference organizers chose this as their theme. There was, it is fair to say, some scepticism when this theme was first aired back in 2008 that it would prove sufficiently rich to sustain a full international event with, we anticipated, more than 200 papers (actually there were 240). How wrong the sceptics were! […] What were the factors that contributed to this success? Of course, a conference is made by its participants, but what is it that makes them rise to the occasion and exceed the sum of their parts? For me, several things really stand out. First and foremost, there was the team led by Nuran Zeren Gülersoy of ITU. Nuran was also very fortunate (or very clever) in getting the support of Istanbul’s mayor whose own architectural training gave him an innate enthusiasm for our event. […] The real point was that these events made everyone feel good about the conference and about being part of it. It was possible to interact in the sessions themselves but also at these other events. And the sessions themselves were very good. Particularly welcome was the conscious encouragement given to younger researchers, which went much further than anything the Society has previously done. It was great to see prizes going to young African and Chinese researchers. It was great too to see the younger researchers showing up the grey eminences in their energy and enthusiasm on the dance floor at the conference dinner. More than ever before, the future of planning history as an international research field seemed dynamic, exciting, and full of promise. So can we bottle the essence of the Istanbul conference and add a little of it to all our future events? Some things worked simply because they were authentically local and enjoyed at their best taking Turkish cuisine around the world to other conferences, for example, might end up being a bit like the kebab vans, which are such a feature of the centres of British cities these days. But the lessons about organization, about taking care of delegates, and about deliberately fostering youth are eminently transferable. So too are the collective opportunities for delegates to let their hair down. When academic, organizational, and social factors are all taken into account, this was, quite simply, the best conference I have been to, ever. I think this was a widespread view. Nuran and her team, but especially Nuran, so richly deserved their long and heartfelt standing ovation in the closing session. Over so many centuries, Istanbul or Constantinople or Byzantion has been a city always capable of reaching and unlocking the human imagination. Nearly 40 years ago, it was the great sparkling city of my own youthful imagination. Now in 2010, it has set us a brilliant example that I feel sure will linger in the imaginations of all who were fortunate enough to go for many years.” (Stephen Ward, in Miller et al., jph2011: 93)


"Planning history is sometimes looked down on as a minority interest, tangential to the dynamism and focus of the major issues facing contemporary society and those responsible for its planning. However; the message emerging from the International Planning History Society (IPHS) Fourteenth Biennial Conference held in Istanbul from 12-15 July 2010 is clear; planning history is alive and kicking, vibrant and relevant. For there were no less than ten invited papers and about 325 other submitted papers listed in the conference programme (and these represented a quality control that winnowed down from the 510 abstracts proposed). Not only was IPHS 2010 a large conference, but its theme – .Urban transformation: controversies, contrasts and challenges. – was both wide-ranging and challenging to the contributors.. […] “The different origins of participants in the conference were interesting and reflected the relevance of the subject. No less than 42 countries were represented, although only nine generated participant numbers in double figures. Unsurprisingly, the host country produced the most (115 participants), a reflection not only of the nature and scope of relevant research in Turkey; but of that country’s significant efforts in recent years to develop a high-performing research driven university sector. […] .Nevertheless IPHS Istanbul 2010 was a tremendous experience and a great success as a conference-both culturally and intellectually. The organizers-particularly Nuran Zeren Gülersoy, Hatice Ayataç and Their army of assistants-and the host organization Istanbul Technical University’s Faculty of Architecture and Urban and Environmental Planning and Research Centre-should be congratulated for their success. The event was enlivened by papers from the very edge of the disciplines of planning history (sometimes perhaps beyond it), but this is how disciplines can develop and new research agendas emerge. Perhaps future conferences need to build upon this vitality and variety, and explicity seek to develop such agenda."

(Peter J. Larkham, tpr2010)


1 Miller, M., Freestone, R., Gordon, D., Hebbert, M., Ward, S.V. (2011) Conference review, Journal of Planning History 10 (1), 2010, 87-94.


2 Larkham,J. Peter, (2010), Conference report, Urban Transformation: Controversies, Contrast and Challenges, The IPHS Fourteenth Biennial Conference, Istanbul, 2010, Town Planning Review 81 (10) 2010, 707-710.




I would like to show my appreciation to the IPHS 2010 Organization Committee (Hatice AYATAÇ, Buket ÖNEM, Ýrem AYRANCI, Kerem ARSLANLI, T. Kerem KORAMAZ, Zeynep GÜNAY, Aykut ER, Ebru GÜRLER, Ece KAYA, Elif TAN, Fýrat ÞEKER, Halil Ýbrahim TOPALFAKIOÐLU, Ömer SARI) and to the Advisory Committee and Reviewers for their generous efforts in making the 14th International Planning History Society Conference a success.


With my special thanks to Dr. Kadir TOPBAÞ, Mayor, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality; Prof. Dr. Muhammed ÞAHÝN, Rector, Istanbul Technical University; Prof. Dr. Orhan HACIHASANOÐLU, Dean, ITU Faculty of Architecture; Prof. Dr. Afife BATUR, Professor, ITU Faculty of Architecture; Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency; ITU Development Foundation, The Scientific & Technological Research Council of Turkey, the UCTEA Chamber of Architects of Turkey Istanbul Metropolitan Branch, The Building Information Centre, The Vehbi Koç Foundation, Sabancý University, the Sakýp Sabancý Museum and the Acar Group.




IPHS 2010 Conference Convenor



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