Mapping Turkey: Architecture

Aerial view of Istanbul


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The early and middle 2010s

In the 2010s, a new generation of young architects started to increase the scope of architecture through an interest in social discourse, technology and information.

In the first half of the decade, some architects represented a generation that under-stood architecture has to be produced with a distinct technical, performative and ideological rationale that is explicit and documented.

In the mid-2010s, socially minded architects joined this growing social and infor-mation-based orientation towards urbanism and architecture. This orientation was partially spurred by the events surrounding the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013. This resulted in the production of a social-oriented architecture, based on studied yet distinct methodologies, to extend the building practice and knowledge base in pur-suing a discursive-driven architecture.

Rapid expansion of urbanism and real estate development

Both rapidly expanding urbanism and real estate development activities resulted in a significant growth in construction and architecture. This development was further accelerated through the investment strategies of the government of the 2000s. As a result of a top-down imposition, there was an increase in building in a pseudo-na-tional Neo-Ottomanist style. In part, the ascendancy of this Neo-Ottomanism is also reflected in the decrease in interest in the way the dominant modernist strain of architecture was applied. This was apparent in both its social agenda and stagnation of its technical and formal agenda. This resulted in a highly commercialised architec-ture, increasingly distant from the local society. The corresponding lack of meaning for society in general can be considered a continuation of the statist and ideological orientation of architecture in Turkey throughout the 20th century.

Advances in architecture

If one considers the technical, environmental and ecological parameters, some advances have been made in architecture, albeit with a limited amount of buildings and only by small groups. These groups opened up the possibilities of the information age in architecture specific to a technological orientation to the building environment in Turkey. It is interesting to note that in the growing specialisation of architecture in Turkey, they are joined by architects emerging from landscape architecture. Moreover, to advance design and architecture, colleagues from interior design brought a sop-histicated understanding of craft, local building techniques and computer-assisted visualisation.

Unfulfilled potential

The promise made to the 2000s generation for Turkey’s contemporary architecture – to start to develop a 21st-century contemporary architecture based on the country’s own dynamics, yet with a widened eye attuned to universal progress, has had limited success in the 2010s. The vast commercial building programmes of the past 16 years have diluted the intellectual and innovative aspects of architecture in Turkey. Some of the major impediments to the advancement in architecture in Turkey have been architects at the service of speculative property development and local municipalities with building programmes with no transparency. The scale and speed demanded of construction by local and national politics have overwhelmed the methods and capa-city of the now-ageing modernist precepts used by most of the architects in Turkey of the 2010s, and have not allowed them to respond with new meaningful architecture principals.

As Turkey asserted its geopolitical position at the centre of the newly forming yet complex geopolitics of Europe and Asia, the regional leadership that would be ex-pected of architecture in balancing the needs of the modern world and the pragmatic approach required at the local level is a challenge faced by the architecture culture of Turkey.

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