Living Bridges / MA Thesis 2012

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The thesis work was developed between October 2011 and January 2012 over the final semester of the masters program in History and Theory of Architecture under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Arch. Georgi Stanishev.
The project was awarded a Silver Medal by the International Academy of Architecture at the triennale of 2012. It received the City Media award for a remarkable diploma work and was exhibited as part of the exhibition “The New Sofia: Next Generation” in September 2012, presenting young architects’ visions of the contemporary city.
The project zone is the Golden Horn, a 8km arm of the Bosphorus in the historical and commercial core of Istanbul, around which the city developed and expanded over the centuries.Similarly to many other urban waterfronts worldwide, the Golden Horn was rapidly industrialized in the twentieth century. After the relocation of industrial activities to the city’s periphery and the consecutive transition to postindustrial economy, the theme of its regeneration came to the fore in the 1980s.

The thesis consists of four parts:

PART I: Analysis of the ongoing regeneration efforts in the global context of postindustrial waterfront regeneration practices;
PART II: Developing an alternative framework for regeneration, modifying and complementing the existing efforts;
PART III: A detailed urban planning proposal for the northern part of the Golden Horn;
PART IV: A residential living bridge as part of the detailed proposal.

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The Golden Horn through the years: A short historical overview

The Golden Horn is an 8 km-long arm of the Bosphorus that goes right into the heart of Istanbul. It is located next to the historical peninsula, the administrative and commercial core of the Ottoman Empire. At the time of Ottoman Istanbul, the Golden Horn functioned as a natural harbor and as a center of commerce and ship construction.
Following the formation of the Turkish Republic, the Golden Horn was alloted for industrial activities. Throughout the following decades around 700 factories and more than 2,000 related businesses were opened along its shorelines.
In the 1980s industry was relocated to the city periphery and large tracts of empty, desolate and contaminated land were opened. Redevelopment of the former industrial coastline became a key issue as Istanbul started being envisioned as a “global city” with a distinctive cultural and historic character. Accordingly, Golden Horn’s ambitious regeneration programs aim to reinvent the waterfront as a global cultural destination through a package of flagship cultural projects. However, their implementation is compromised.
Nowadays, similarly to many historical waterfronts worldwide, the Golden Horn carries the destructive traces of rapid industrialization over the past few centuries and the consequent transition to postindustrial economy. The reasons for this lie partly in the inherent weaknesses of the traditional “regeneration-through-culture” model, yet the case of Istanbul cannot be fully explained through the concepts usually applied to describe and analyze redevelopment efforts in Western cities, such as gentrification, entrepreneurism, public-private partnerships etc. At the same time, its central location and proximity to water make it especially attractive for investments and therefore, a reevaluation of its regeneration program and its ability to respond to Istanbul’s unique character and problems is once again, crucial.

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Why is this the case?

When discussing the recent urban developments in Istanbul, the popular discourse often revolves around the concept of overwhelming neoliberal policies, enterpreneuerism, gentrification and the utilization of legal, political and administrative instruments towards supporting private capital and neoliberal developments.

However, a recent study conducted by Dikmen Bezmez on the redevelopment processes in the Golden Horn demonstrates that in reality, as James Scott puts it, the state is “incredibly messy” and the outcomes of the regeneration efforts are less of a carefully calibrated and executed neoliberal projects than a patchwork of different, often contradictory visions, misunderstanding, administrative and political discontinuity. It strikes that Istanbul’s relative lack of tradition in urban planning translates in the absence of established and functioning channels for cooperation between the different actors involved: the state, the metropolitan and district municipalities, the private sector and the people and last, but not least, the absence of NGOs who could serve as representatives of the local communities.

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