Bursa, one of the largest metropolitan areas of Turkey, with more than two million inhabitants, is one of the fifteen cities which the Culture and Tourism Ministry aimed to transform into a "Brand City" within the scope of the Tourism Strategy Action Plan (2007-2023) in 2007. The city accelerated its transformation from an industrial city to a touristic one with the Brand City Bursa Action Plan, a project designed in six months in 2008. This transformation was also highlighted in the Strategy Plan of 2010-2014: The vision of the Municipality was defined as "recreating Bursa as an organized, healthy, habitable and modern touristic city that deserves the title ‘A European City' with its historical and cultural values."
In order to preserve the cultural legacy for the future, the restoration of Ottoman Era architecture is given priority. However, during this bona fide work, some technical mistakes (sometimes in the restoration stage) cause the buildings to lose their unique fabric. Also, the lack of planning for the restoration of these buildings and the lack of conceptualization pave the way for the poor utilization of these restored buildings, some of which are Pirinc Inn and Tuz Inn. The products placed outside of the shops, the ad posters, the huge signboards of the companies, the awnings, novelty parasols, the tables and chairs made of plastic and cables are common problems. It is obvious that restoring only the constructions is not enough. In addition to restoration, a detailed study of the management and administration of the construction, as well as a guide that lays out the standards for furniture and signboards to use and inform the merchants are needed. As you might imagine, a city that plans to become a brand should not have these sights.
Along with these architectural works, the urbanization projects also envision prominent transformations in Bursa. Some of these are urban transformation projects, while others constitute investments in order for Bursa to become a touristic city. Just as in many cities in Turkey, many projects in Bursa are applied and constructed under the pretense of "urban transformation." However, it is observed that these projects are not developed in harmony with the many-pronged nature of urban transformation and that the effects and interrelations are not thoroughly studied. The Housing Development Administration of Turkey's (TOKI) Doganbey Urban Transformation Project, which dealt a major blow to the city's silhouette, infrastructure, transportation and population, stands as a valuable lesson to authorities. The Sicaksu Urban Transformation Project and the project in the province of Intam, which became a stage for various project proposals, had term sheets signed with TOKI. The works on preliminary projects concerning Yalova Highway and Santral Garaj Urban Transformation Project still continue. It is of utmost importance for the sake of the city's future that the process continues with a participative understanding and locally-tailored projects. TOKI's uniform projects make this an impossibility. Additionally, many national and international hotel chains' constructions and shopping malls are falsely announced as investments towards the city's project to become a brand.
Another prominent project which is quickly becoming a current issue is the 43,000-person capacity Bursa Metropolitan Municipality Stadium, which is in the shape of an alligator, the animal symbol of Bursaspor. Assuming all the feasibility studies concerning the location, the capacity and the cost are done, the point to question is in regards to the literal understanding in design. Is it possible to become a brand with a kitsch design?
What do you think a "brand" city is, and what do you think should be done to reach this goal?
Original article, originally published in Turkish, here.
Credits: Images by Christopher Rose and Ming-yen Hsu. Data linked to sources.