NAi, Architecten, Ruimtelijke ordening, Architecture of Consequence, Beleid en visie, Opinie, Evenementen, Architectuur en stedenbouw, Social cohesion, Value creation, Lezingen en debatten | Chris Luth | 06-11-2012
I wrote this report for my colleagues at the NAI midway through a very intensive Debate on Tour in Turkey. Read on.
18 Oct 2012 | How can you summarise such an intensive week in Turkey in a few lines? At least by saying that it’s been an eventful week. Some of the things we saw here were shocking. Urban renewal turns out to be a euphemism for thoughtless demolition and new construction. People who’ve lived in their homes for generations are told they inhabit a slum that needs redevelopment. It’s often many years before they’re offered a much smaller apartment in a tower with very limited amenities in a new neighbourhood devoid of any context. And with a big debt on top of it. How do people then respond?
Ankara: Marxist analyses of urban renewal
In Ankara we got bogged down in an intellectual discussion of Marxist analyses in which indifferent capital boosts the wealth of a small elite at the expense of a large, poor minority. Although nobody challenged this, it was very unsatisfactory. After all, architects want to design. At the end of the debate I asked the young generation how they saw their future. A deafening silence followed. There’s plenty of work for them, but making a meaningful contribution to housing and urban renewal is a towering ambition here, if it can be put that way.
Advancing ‘urban renewal’ in the north of Ankara. Photo: Chris Luth
This photo shows a small neighbourhood about a century old. People grow their own vegetables, build their own homes and even attach solar panels to the roofs. A model of sustainability therefore. But in the background you can already see the advancing march of tall, anonymous residential towers. A few years ago that was a similarly pleasant neighbourhood like this. And in a few years, towers like those will occupy the spot from where I took this picture. The people who offered us those delicious melons will have disappeared.
Bursa: uninhabited residential towers
Empty residential towers on the site of a 600-year-old vibrant city neighbourhood in Bursa. Photo: Chris Luth
In Bursa we encountered a battlefield. For half a century the residents of a 600-year-old neighbourhood were told that soon ‘something would happen’. That’s why the owners didn’t invest anything in maintenance all that time. As a result, their vibrant neighbourhood of terraced development built at a human scale of four to six floors fell into disrepair.
A few years ago the municipality and TOKI, a state housing developer, presented a plan. Homeowners would receive new homes and rental compensation for the period between demolition and completion, which would take just 18 months.
Four years later some ten empty residential towers, each 23 floors tall, still await residents. Just ten per cent of the new owners have moved in, while the remaining ninety per cent refuse. The photo below reveals why: located behind the electricity hut is the entrance to this residential tower, with just a narrow, metre-wide passage between them. I really never saw such a soulless neighbourhood. You can hardly see a single other building, never mind the horizon, from within this estate. What’s more, neighbourhood residents are now burdened with big debts, and the legal proceedings against TOKI will probably drag along for years.
The entrance to the residential tower is located behind the electricity hut. Photo: Chris Luth
Presence of the NAI
What difference do we make by raising the issue of urban renewal in Turkey? People derive hope from our presence. Through us, a discussion that has come to a standstill starts moving again. Our involvement makes it possible for a town mayor to come and take a look, someone who would otherwise not show his face. We do not, of course, want to give the impression that we are here to tell them how to run their affairs. That’s why we show them how things don’t always work out perfectly where we come from, but that we have learned from similar mistakes we made in the past (although on a much smaller scale in the Netherlands). Likewise, Turkey can learn from its mistakes. In addition, we pose explicit questions about what we see, and we show realistic alternatives drawn from practice in the Netherlands. People of all sorts, from architects to neighbourhood residents, are impressed by our presentations and thank us wholeheartedly for coming here.
Instructive for speakers
Furthermore, the tour is very instructive for our speakers Bart Vink and Endry van Velzen. Although urban renewal took place in a similar manner in the Netherlands in the 1960s, we never witnessed such extreme examples. It is an unprecedented confirmation of the quality of the Dutch approach. That is also the view of José Chong from Peru, who is travelling with us on behalf of the United Nations (UN-Habitat). Now that the UN is extending its attention for developing countries to include the so-called transitional economies like Turkey, this tour is a wonderful way to access the country. At breakfast this morning we discussed the next steps, and he spoke about a possible partnership agreement with the NAI. I’m looking forward to 2013 already.
Greetings from Turkey!
> Read more about the Debates on Tour series in Turkey here
The camera crew consists of the makers of Ecumenopolis, a documentary film about Istanbul. This was the opening film of the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam in 2011 and is highly recommended. Their new film about Debates on Tour in Turkey goes online before the end of this year!
The downside of urban renewal in the Tarlabasi neighbourhood in Istanbul. Co-curator Merve Bedir translates into English the criticism of a representative of the Chamber of Architects. Photo: Chris Luth
you might find this interesting and useful http://www.scribd.com/doc/59535086/Istanbul-city-of-islands
Dear Carlos, Thank you for the response. Could you forward the pdf to me? [email@example.com] Thank you in advance.
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* Manditory fields
On 1 September 2010 the NAI organized a Debate on Tour in Marxloh, a ‘problem neighbourhood’ in Duisburg, Germany. Dutch and German speakers discussed how residents can improve their neighborhood. Co-organisers were Buro Venhuizen, Legenda Gesellschaft and Erfgoed Nederland.
> Read more...
In recent years the demolition plans for the Bijlmer district in Amsterdam and the Southwest of The Hague have been closely watched by the media and designers, but the demolition of postwar housing in the Netherlands is much more widespread. A third of the total housing stock in the Netherlands, approximately two million dwellings, was built between 1945 and 1970. Each year approximately seven thousand of these are demolished and replaced with new buildings. As such, the restructuring of post-war residential neighborhoods is the Netherlands' most extensive building project.
> Read more...
How can architects and planners, activists and policymakers contribute to the ecological balance of the city in the context of rapid urbanisation and metropolitan growth? In collaboration with the International Architecture Biennale of Rotterdam (IABR), the Istanbul Bilgi University, SALT and Urban4, the NAI organised a second debate in Istanbul on 13 June 2011. Having discussed the practices of resident participation in urban regeneration projects during a first Debate on Tour in December 2010, the focus of this second debate was ecological landscapes, comparing projects and policies in the Netherlands and Istanbul.
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In connection with the DutchDFA programme for India, the NAI is targeting the urbanisation problems of the city of Mumbai. On september 5, during Design Yatra 2009, the NAi and DutchDFA organised a Debate on Tour, where Dutch architects explored the subject slum renewal with their Indian counterparts.
> Read more...