Taksim Square, in Istanbul, Turkey, is one of the liveliest public spaces in the city. It was a part of the modernization project of the newly-formed republic in the late 1930s. Like many other parts of the city, it was based on the plans of Henri Prost, the prominent representative of the French school of urban planning. The plan consisted basically of the square and an esplanade that was designed for the large space that emerged after Taksim Barracks was demolished.
Recently, projects have been made by the municipality that replaces the esplanade by resurrecting these barracks. The design also envisages moving the automobile traffic underground. These architectural projects are done within the municipality without any disclosure on the process and the designer(s).
Architects, planners, and academicians provide different views on the feasibility of the undertaking, but the greatest controversy is on whether it is democratic to attempt to transform such an essential public space behind closed doors. The memory of the people would be threatened if a park that has been there for 70 years is removed, and making a replica of a building for the sake of historical preservation is not justifiable by itself.
There is a similar debate in Germany on the rebuilding of an important architectural monument called Stadtschloss, but after almost 20 years of discussion, no certain measures are taken because an end that would be accepted by both sides hasn’t been reached yet.
What I want to emphasize is importance of democratic dialogue between the public and the authorities. Wouldn’t it be an intervention in the cultural life of the people, trying to apply projects designed without any architectural and social discourse? An architectural competition open to international architects and planners, in which all the projects can be viewed and commented on by the public can be an effective and democratic solution.
What will be gained by reviving a building that has long been lost and doesn’t have a place in contemporary people’s realities, by removing a public space which has been a part of the lives and collective memories of several generations?
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