VOL: 8  NO: 1  208-216   2011-1


Urban characteristics of Istanbul: Problem or potential?




Istanbul Technical University, Faculty of Architecture, Istanbul, TURKEY

Received: September 2009            Final Acceptance: December 2010



In Turkey there is a general consensus on the evaluation of the urban environment. The general public as well as intellectual and academic circles will agree that something needs to be done in order to stop and then reverse the processes that destruct the city. On the other hand, urban life of Istanbul is flourishing in terms of variety and intensity, competing with major global metropolises. In other words, there are considerable tensions between the ‘urban culture’ of the city and the ideals of its citizens.


This paper focuses firstly on the analysis of the characteristics of Istanbul and then proposes a new perspective of understanding. This new perspective considers these characteristics as potential design and planning principles for future implementations. There is an urgent need for new perspectives on Istanbul as well as design approaches originating from these perspectives. This need arises from stereotypical methods to the understanding and design of the city. This paper tries to define the characteristics of Istanbul beyond these stereotypes. Urban characteristics of Istanbul are defined as continuous change, contradictions, incompleteness, ambiguity, heterogeneity and being unpossessed. Design approaches appropriate for stable, consistent, closed, definite, homogenous and possessed cities would not be appropriate for this city. When working for this city, the designer must be aware of the characteristics of Istanbul, allow for plurality and provide flexibility and open-endedness - even randomness if necessary. A new architecture, which can relate to its location and is unique, can be likely through this approach. The intensity and flexibility of uses within various public spaces of the city actually presents the potential for an energetic and humane architecture. Finally a design proposal based on the mentioned characteristics is discussed. This proposal presents a possible new way of integrating ‘planning’ and ‘spontaneity’.



Keywords:  Istanbul, urban character, plurality, planning, spontaneity.


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