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CULTURESHIFT: the lost future of Ataturk Cultural Center Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation Seminar: Architecture vis-a-vis Ideology: The Reappearing acts of Spatial Practice by Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss Fall 2013

Book designed and edited by Nazli Ergani


I would like to thank to my professor my family my classmates for the support and supervision throughout this research



This book can be considered as a document in progress, a work that I considered as an inner dialogue. Through this book, my aim was to bring out many layers within the Turkish Republic and its correspondence to architecture. This dialogue was especially was triggered by the events of the summer of 2013. As I was pursuing my education at Columbia University, GSAPP, I couldn’t physically be in Istanbul; so in a way, I also consider this book as my voice. I chose to concentrate on not only the protests but mainly questioning the changing ideology that lead to series of events. My main goal was to make this cultural change clear for myself and my peers. Thus along with careful consideration of history (both older and recent), I also choose to bring in many protagonists. Although the book is a collection of different instances and quotes from many people, for me it is a free platform for ideas.



But I grew up with my city. I did associate it with myself, I did feel nostalgic when someone talked about Istanbul, and I always considered it is my utmost responsibility to be critical about my city. During all these years I strove to understand my city and the logic behind this boundless cosmopolitan metropolis I call home.

I dreamed about the mulberry fields which extended towards Galatasaray in the past decades-when my grandmother talked about Istanbul of her childhood.

On a sunny day the pillars of the Bosphorus Bridge could be seen from a distance through my frame -which always reminded me about the other continent – that is the Asian side of Bosphorus.

I could see the red and yellow signs of the Shell Gas Station at the corner when I looked over from my window. Hayirsiz Ada (the Wicked Island) on Marmara sea which always seemed like a floating mouse on water was also a permanent member of my frame.

I grew up in Istanbul, on one of the busiest streets in the city, which became my initial frame to the city.



The Ataturk Cultural Center (AKM) once I danced in as a little ballerina, the place where I have witnessed many Operas and Ballet recitals, was also one of the main players of the protest as well as a quintessential of contemporary architecture in Istanbul.

Istanbul shaped my life, my personality. As I was pursuing my Graduate Studies in the United States, I was not in Turkey during the Gezi Protests, yet I feel responsible to build my own response to the current events and the shifts in ideologies. While witnessing the recent events, I felt compelled to further investigate these recent reverberations and the current culture shift, with special emphasis on the architectural implications of this shift.

From an architectural aspect, the city is like a canvas for its inhabitants- a place in which creativity and urbanism finds a balance for a better life quality. The city is indeed a notion which people associate with themselves – a concept which shapes their personality, their lives and their dreams.


Thus we question The role of public The role of architect The role of the administration- both municipal and central

This project portrays the questions of the public space within the problematic urban settings of Istanbul. The problem mainly stems from the tension created by the policies imposed by the municipal authorities and the central administration and the response of the people towards it.




Reciprocally the city also bears a responsibility to the public. Public spaces of the city are spaces where the people can speak their views and, expressing their reactions to the evolving issues regarding the city, in some cases the country. And in most cases whenever there is a dispute, people normally find ways to reach a compromise. But in the case of Gezi Park, this did not happen. The protest that started in late May 2013 grew out of a minor demonstration against the domineering and deliberately commercial approach to architecture and public space -taken by the ruling government. The Prime Minister, who was once the Mayor of Istanbul had assumed the role of the Chief Architect of the City and was the ultimate decision maker about what type of buildings are to be constructed and in which style which eventually turned out to be a seeming neo Ottoman kitsch.


The Prime Minister’s decision to build a shopping mall on Taksim Square in imitation of 19th Century Artillery Barracks previously built on the same land piece was one of the reasons triggering the events that took place in late May.


In the following days, Gezi evolved to become a symbol of an Occupy Wall Street type of protest and becoming an experiment of communal and shared urbanism. Indeed the spirit that stands behind the Gezi Movement is contrary to the self serving urban policies of the government.We are beginning to see publiv interests diminished by government supported commercial development without any debate or discussion . As they did not have any significant architectural strategies, neo ottomanism concept was adopted to bring forward the signs and symbols of the Ottoman Empire as a superficial basis of this effort. The massive neo ottoman mosque at Camlica – a hill top on the Asian side of Istanbul for which the foundation stone was laid last month, thematic condos where Bosphorus Strait was recreated, newly opened theme parks with views of old Istanbul, Islamic summer resorts with ottoman architecture with separate facilities for men and women are a few examples of this architecturally shallow trend. Undoubtedly this trend is a reflection of Ottoman Islamic consumerism. Ottoman revivalism is being adopted by some of Turkey’s newly rich conservative elite. Furthermore it is by no chance that Ataturk Kultur Merkezi ( AKM) ,cultural center of Istanbul, which is adjacent to Gezi park and inspired by European architecture is intended to be replaced with an opera building in the Ottoman style. Indeed- it can be argued that in this era, urban architecture is fully utilized to annihilate the European dreams of secular Turks.






*Recep Tayyip Erdogan **Whatever you do, we have decided about what will happen to Gezi Park


in·ter·fere intransitive verb \in-te(r)-’fir\ to become involved in the activities and concerns of other people when your involvement is not wanted [1]


It could be said that the political approach that *AKP is taking nowadays is more about interference. Celebrating their 11th year in power, the current administration has already started to make changes to the secularly founded Turkish Republic. Redesign of the Gezi Park was only one aspect. It stood out because people as the “other %50”, RTE would say, were dissatisfied the the whole interference of the government into their private lives.

Questioning the causes of the Gezi Park Protest, Slavoj Zizek says, “Is this just a struggle against corrupt city administration? Is it a struggle against authoritarian Islamist rule? Is it a struggle against the privatization of public space? The question is open, and how it is answered will depend on the result of an ongoing political process.”[2]

“ They can tweet millions, but our one **Basmala will put a stop to their games.” RTE spoke in Samsun on June 22,2013 [3]

His saying clearly states that the government is approaching from a religious approach. *AKP (Justice and Development Party) **In the name of God


It can be commented that the primary intent is to alter the pillars of the secular Turkish Republic. Utilizing and imitating the Ottoman period architecture as a means of the man on the street. Furthermore Istanbul is chosen to be the exemplary testing area for the projects. These projects bear traces of Ottoman Kitch aiming to revive the nostalgia for the long gone past and to establish the transformation to the conservative neo ottomanist way of living- abandoning the Kemalist westernization policies of the Turkish Republic. It is unfortunate that rather than embracing the archeological remains of recently discovered during the implementation of the underground project as the cultural heritage of the city, this matchless exploration was interpreted as the main reason of the delay of the project- citing that the project was delayed for four years due to some broken urn and vase pieces. [4] Means are always found to generate the funds and convert it to votes through the imposed changing architecture of the city. Yet this change only happens through a unilateral set of rules and procedures without getting approval of the related professional bodies or NGO’s.





“For some observers, Turkey’s upheaval provides new evidence that Islam and democracy cannot coexist. But Mr Erdogan’s religiosity is beside the point. The real lesson of these events is about authoritarianism: Turkey will not put up with a middleclass democrat behaving like an Ottoman sultan” [6]


Ahmet Kuyas writes in the Magazine. “Yasarken Yazilan Tarih”, that history never repeats again. None of the conditions or people are ever the same, since every context that makes up any moment will differ from each other. He comments on this writing about the protest over Gezi Parki over the summer; criticizing the governments approach to such events. He emphasizes that the concern to loose power leads to the choice of the easier way of comparing such events with their “replicas” in the past. [7]

“The meaning of politics, comes from polis”, notes Ahmet Kuyas, which means that the country have honored the government to rule them in peace. In this case, the protagonists that create this peace are in balance, and when that balance is destroyed, the peace just disappear. [8]

This approach consequentially leads to the polarization of the society – the opponents vs. the defendants. It is by no chance that the protests over summer 2013, were compared to the military uprise during the Ottoman Empire era , protest against the sharia, and the coups of 1960s and 1980s. Aiming to belittle and alienate the protests, this mentality leads to the paradox of putting coups and the Gezi Protests to the same plate in an effort to find similarities between these totally contradicting events.


March 31 Incident, 1909


1960 Beyazit Protests


Gezi Protests



Emre Kongar, a Turkish sociologist, refers to RTE, who comments that the protest for being an ideological protest. Kongar states that, Actually all the states are ideologic. For religious states, the ideology is religion and sect. For nationalist states, the ideology is nationalism. But Democratic states’ ideology is democracy and human rights! [9]

“A protest that asks for rights, in democratic terms, is an ideological protests. Because, its ideology is DEMOCRACY.”


Emre Kongar



“Can it be still called democracy when a certain religious point of view is forced upon the public?�


Dogan Akin





So, what did we learn from the protest in Gezi Park in terms of the importance of social/ political urban space? It is true that Istanbul lacks green spaces, especially designed green spaces for the use of the public. But when an already designed and strategically located public space is to be taken from the public for current administration’s ideologically loaded projects, people of Istanbul finally opened their eyes. XXl Architecture and Design Magazine have spared their July 2013 for the theme under the (UN) architecture of Gezi Park. From architects, students and theorists, all related and interested people have written articles on the meaning of the protest and its implications on the public space.

Firat Kaya in his article, “Discovering America Again”, mentions that the protests brought the city to its people. People started to act and meet up at public spaces. They have learned that parks are not only spaces of clean air but they are modulated through architecture. [12] Gokhan Karakus states that “..against the polarization caused by the implementation of shopping malls in Istanbul, the Gezi Park protest broke away that polarization and created the common ground for the many. “ He further mentions that the idea towards the public space changed and it was assured by the public that the public space is actually public’s public space. [13]

Bahanur Nasya of European Architectural Platform writes that “ order to create a healthy community, we need to give spaces to get together, spaces to create dialogue, spaces that will allow people to feel empathy towards each other. The notion of Gezi Park succeeded in this manner, where the public found the change to become one. While some people were doing yoga, others were praying, Some were singing and some were reading the books they have acquired from the Gezi library, some were eating and some were just enjoying the green space.” [14]



Defne Onen lists what has been acquired from the protest. - We have experienced the formation, transformation and the sustainability of the public space. -We have learned that facades, walls, shopfronts , floors have the ability to broadcast freely. - We felt the importance of the role of animals within the urban setting. - We have learned to push the limits of creativity within the public space. - We have slowed down the city center. - We have learned to use material and found objects and repurpose them with new meaning and function, -We became ONE, within public and architecture, inside and outside, real and virtual. [15] Murat Cetin, states “ ...the city space was turned into the public’s space. The protest was a political and social awakening as well as architectural, spatial awakening. It was important in the terms that people fought and owned their space.” [16] Ipek Yeda Akpinar of Istanbul Technical University writes, “ We have experienced the switch from “abstract space” to “physical space” as Henri Lefevbre would say.... Gezi Park became something more than a park, it planted the seeds for a democratic future.” [17]


Furthermore it is by no chance that the commentaries released in the days following the Gezi Protests were mainly based to emphasize the efforts to prevent the opponents, i.e other half of the population not to go on to the streets. Such claim seem a lot more like an assurance, somewhat grounding the argument on why the conservative public was not on the streets. Yet both in social media and later on the news photoblogs, it was observed that women of various ages with headscarves who were supposed to be against the protesters - participated in the protest waving Turkish flags protesting the INTERFERENCE that almost everyone is facing. Such concerns allows the rulers or the governments to build landmarks which becomes the reminiscence of their time. Numerous projects were implemented today, while the publicity of these achievements were aggrandized in the media as the great achievements of the government. The Marmaray project that connects the European continent to the Asian continent, has been emphasized as a dream for the past 150 years and was publicized as a major achievement. [18] On the other hand, in New York, there are over ten underwater passages used by trains and cars. Such projects have been successfully completed in many places around the globe. Connecting the two continents may seem like a major accomplishment because of the wording of the ‘continent’but, the publicity is aggrandized as a campaign material to be brought forward in the upcoming elections RTE is not only celebrating Marmaray but other monuments that carry his artistic and aesthetic value, using Istanbul as the playground to execute his ideals as Istanbul as the Islam Capital. Architect, Sinan Genim comments that every government in their own time, has some sort of a monumental desire to build in order to remind themselves to the history. [19]



To make history, the government sought to revive of the long gone Ottoman Barracks located on the current Gezi Park . It is by no chance that capitalist monumentality has been preferred This monumentality is carried out by implementing and building religiously affiliated buildings and mosques in Istanbul to reiterate its role as the next Islam Capital of the world. Before the protests emerged in late May 2013 , there were two mosque projects which were implemented in two different sites in Istanbul, Atasehir Mosque and Camlica Mosque. In this case,Genim questions: “If you make a opera house on Camlica Hill, no one would go there. Commissioning a sculpture may not be culturally appropriate. With this concept in mind- building a mosque may be the only option in an effort to leave as a landmark to the city.” [19] It may be argued that the major issue is not only leaving a mark in the city, but also it is about building replicas of the Ottoman style mosques which inherently do not carry any signs of modernism and contemporary architecture. The Gezi Park protest were about, -saving the trees, -definitely about saving one’s opinion, -but it was also about saving the public’s space, a step towards modernist architecture and a response against the Neo- Ottomanist way of building and thinking. Issues about Gezi Park and the conversation on the demolition of historical sites revisited the “question” or “interference” of the possible mosque in the Taksim Square and the current state of the Ataturk Cultural Center. (AKM) Now the question is; what kind of future awaits AKM?



Built as an opera house in Turkey, AKM portrays the modernist Turkey; its architecture and emerging techniques of its time. It is considered as a cult in the history of the Turkish architecure. It represents a cultural heritage as it bears most of the Republic’s culture.



With is strategic location in Taksim Square, vessel to broadcast cultural acts, and


the building also acts as a billboard: Once a now, a common place to frame social acts.



AKM has been witnessing many cultural and political events.

“AKM is not only an important building, but it is a symbol. It is a symbol of the Republican Era Turkey, one of the few architectural landmarks that was built with the same way the buildings in Europe was built. Even the aluminum façade was the first aluminum façade of Turkey at the time.”


Murat Tabanlioglu ‘ fig.14


AKM can be rightfully deliberated to be the symbol of culture of modern Turkey. It was built in the same era when several other opera houses were being built around the globe, thus it was also a response to the rest of the world that showed the modernization of Turkey after World War II. [21] In the very heart of Istanbul became a place where visual and performing arts rejoined and world class performances were displayed. It can be considered that the site was intentionally positioned in the center of the city as a symbol of the modern Turkish Republic. As Kemalism forms the modernizing and secularizing notions, building the opera house was a very big step into the modern world. Besides the fact of the language and material of modernism being used, it was one the first opera house that Turkey was going to have at the time. After years of hardship during the fall of Ottoman Empire, emphasis was given to arts, especially to performing arts. The building housed the Turkish Opera and Theather. Many of the shows were held there up until 2008.

The administration basically wants to give a restart to the opera building, as it closed its doors supposedly for renovation in 2008. Yet the closing of the building is not just about the renaovation. It is about restarting an ideology. Removing the building can be considered as an attempt for rejecting the Kemalist ideology.

Murat Tabanlioglu is leading architect of Tabanlioglu Architecture. And he is the son of Hayati Tabanlioglu, who is the architect of AKM.

Unfortunately only up until 2008...


Kemalism was constituted as the ideology that aided the transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic. It is the modernizing philosophy which helped to transform the religious ethnic and segregated Ottoman Empire into the unitary Turkish Republic. [22] Kemalist ideology stands on 6 principles, which are not a subject to change. [23] Republicanism Populism Nationalism Secularism Statism Reformism and these principles were stated in the constitutional law, after the republic was formed. In the 1924 Constitutional Law Article 2, Clause 1: [23] “The Turkey is republican, nationalist, attached to the people, interventionist, secular and revolutionary.” [23] After the military coup of 1960 and after the 1980 f: In the 1961 Constitutional Law Article 1, Clause 1 states “The Turkish State is a Republic.” Article 2, Clause 1: “The Turkish Republic is a nationalistic, democratic, secular and social state, governed by the rule of law, based on human rights and fundamental tenets set forth in the preamble.” [23] In the 1982 Constitutional Law Article 1, Clause 1 states “The Turkish State is a Republic.” Article 2, Clause 1: “The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state governed by the rule of law; bearing in mind the concepts of public peace, national solidarity and justice; respecting human rights; loyal to the nationalism of Atatürk, and based on the fundamental tenets set forth in the Preamble.” [23]



It is evident that the secular status of the state is emphasized in all three constitutions which is unique among all countries in the Middle East with Muslim Majority.


sa·cred /sâkrid/ dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration. [24]


As the definition states, “sacred” means also to be honored and it deserves respect and reverence. Then sacralization would mean, to make something sacred in order to deserve this respect, with the meaning loading into the religious aspect given.


Religion is a very sensitive subject in the Modern Turkey similar to most societies in the Middle East . Although the state is secular and that is not to be changed, there is a tendency to use religion as an anchor to speak to many people. As religion is the “subject” that brings everyone together, the politicians do not hesitate to use this issue to influence people and restructure and influence crowds. So how does publicity and sacralization come together ?

Then how does the sacred become the monumetal? Or can it turn into a political object while still remaining sacred?

As stated earlier, Sinan Genim, mentioned that every government, wants to do something monumental in order to leave their mark. [25] It could be considered that the ruling government, lead by RTE is implementing the “sacred” into the monument.

Somewhere along the line, people got confused about the building of this monumentality and the idea of originality. What the administration considered as the monument became the replica of the monumentality, thus the replica of the Ottoman Empire. People from the conservative groups were worried that the secular people not believers and they do not want to design mosques. Mehmet Gormez who is the Head of the Department of Religious Affairs, commented “...our universities, our architecture schools, our architects were not in good terms with the mosques. They were not able to execute any architecturally special mosques during the republican era, because they were just upset. I think they are fine now, I think they now like mosques and this will definitely bring us to better places.” [26] Where the problem lied was the fact that over the years, the longing for the monumentality was just the nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire. Building a mosque in the Ottoman period, was basically building a school, a foundation, as the mosques were equippmed with spaces characterized as “kulliye”* Yet the understanding of the mosque had changed over the years when the Constitution separated state and religion and consequently they became self identified entities. Building a mosque now, only has a religious meaning, it is about sacralization of the location, of the community, yet it is a very different thing when sacralization is used as a tool to implement contraversive ideology.

*Kulliye: a term which designates a complex of buildings, centered around a mosque and managed within a single institution.[27]


“It is an element of manipulation”

Just even the fact the the mosque is trying to achieve being the “most” symbolizes the power of the government and it is trying to use a sacred institution as a political tool, to achieve political aspirations.

Normally, the mosques were meant to be the locations where people would meet, not only just to pray. In Turkish culture, mosques play a great role in defining the public space. In the old parts of Istanbul, the urban fabric was generated through the location of the mosque. In many parts of the city this still takes place. People convene at the mosque; the idea of the mosque is the space to meet and make connections within the community. The Camlica Mosque, currently under construction, will be the biggest mosque in Turkey, does not serve the purpose of bringing together,commented on even by the conservative columnists. [28]

“It is just another campaign to make the conservative portion happy, since they support the construction of religious monuments. Thus this is a way to buy their votes for the next elections.” Renee Van Staveren of CoLAB, MIT questions the need of a mosque in such a place. There are many other public spaces that the public really needs before a mosque, like schools, green spaces. Some of the anonymous comments on Staverens website notes on the fact that the mosque is only a monument of the power of the government, they want to continue the religious political hierarchy. It is believed that the project bears religious attributes to the religious multitude, but political attributes to the secular multitude. [29]



“My only rival is Suleymaniye ( Blue Mosque)” *As the jury decided to go with a traditional look of a mosque, Camlica mosque essentially, will be a replica of The Blue Mosque.


indicates mosque

The current administration has the tendency to campaign through the use of religion, in many cases, the building of the Camlica Mosque could as well be considered a political point for the upcoming elections. But do people of Camlica need that mosque? Or is the mosque only an object of power to portray the different scenario for the (secular) Republic of Turkey.



fig. 17

According to the Turkish Statistical Organization, the population of Istanbul is 13,9 million. (where there are 7789 or more people living in the km sq in the urbanized area of the city. For the whole city of Istanbul, number of mosques: 3028 churches: 40 synagogues: 16 And this means that the number of mosque per km sq is 0.55. And yet , the population of the Camlica area is about 30000 people.and the sq footage of the mosque will be 110000 meter sq. This means, each person in the area will have about 3.6 meter sq within the mosque. According to math, there is about 30000 people living in 4 km sq area. And for a 4 km sq area, the number of mosques adds up to be 2.2. In this case, basic ratio proves that Camlica Mosque is not intended for the locals but it serves as symbol of power.


A conservative journalist Ahmet Turan Alkan comments on the remarks that can be considered unacceptable by most architects; based on an interview of the chief Architect of the Camlica Hill Mosque,Haci Mehmet Guner. Mr. Guner believes that , when building the mosque, the dome and the minarets should be replicas of similar mosques in previously built mosques . With him, saying that, we definitely get the hint that a certain conservative portion of architects do not believe in the contemporary architecture and that the contemporary approach takes away from theeligious and traditional morals of such buildings. He adds that they will build the biggest dome in Turkey, and the tallest minarets. While Guner suggests that a greater building is done through being bigger or taller, there is definitely a misalignment of the modernist logic of architecture.[30]

An architectural Historian Ugur Tanyeli comments that: “ this is just a joke. I can even say that fighting over the size of the mosques and its parts could even be regarded as an attack to the sacred. The quality or what makes the mosque a mosque is not about its size.” [31]

“ As far as I know, the mosque on top of Camlica did not come from the people of Camlica Area; it came from Prime Minister Erdogan. It is not our religion’s role to build a mosque on every spot we find empty.” [32]

Ahmet Turan Alkan, clearly notes that he is not fund of the mosque on top of Camlica Hill.


*everyone has mistakes

fig. 18

Architectural historian who specializes in mosques, Dogan Kuban, states that, “ Every great empire needs architecture to implement power. Ottoman Empire had architecture...” [33] where the government follows the steps to implement such power by recreating the Ottoman architecture. While, according to the article named, “AKP’s drill with Ottoman Architecture” in soL News, the writer emphasizes on the fact that AKP government sees the mosques as a power image. Day by day a new mosque project is called out and for every mosque opening, the PM and many other ministers attend. [34] Murat Belge of Taraf Newspaper notes in his essay; that “Ottoman understanding plays out a big role on AKP and RTE’s thoughts. In their world, the meaning of plurality means Muslim Community.” [35] Thus the contruction of mosques all over the country is the administrations way to show their support for the religiously affiliated entities. This notion is even supported by Head of Religious Works, Mehmet Gormez quote, “There shouldn’t be any university left without a mosque in their campus.”, which shows the govenment’s urge to implement their notion of religion as a fundamental to create a religous community through religious spaces. [36] “... if needed, a mosque will be built everywhere, this is the land of Turkish- Islam, and we need to show that..” states Yigit Bulut, one of AKP’s spokesman, implementing on the strategy that the goverment is holding with the meaning given to the mosque. He also adds “...There could be a mosque built on the entry to Bosphorus, and there could be symbols of Islam built around. Through such architecture we can show that this is the land of Turkey, and the land of Islam..” where we could see that the government gives references to Islam and Religion under the name of tradition, and they embrace the Islamic style architecture. [37]


It is not only the secular architects and thinkers’ opinion that a replica should not be placed on top of Camlica Hill looking over to Istanbul. A conservative thinker Ducane Cundioglu thinks that replicating the Blue Mosque and replacing it on top of the Hill is just a nightmare that falls onto Istanbul’s silhouette. He also adds “ In order to save my people from such embarrassment, I would have burned myself.” Contrarily Ahmet Turan Alkan also adds about PM Erdogan said in a mosque opening in KahramanMaras, “ He looked at the newly built Abdulhamit Han Mosque and said “lets make something just like that, It should be so big so that it can hold so many people” yet the mosque built there was constructed too big that it took over the whole square in the city. It takes ten thousands of people and in order to get up to the minaret, one needs to take the elevator. This building is pure, confrontation an something that should not be copied. This is something against the morals of our religion which calls for humbleness” [38]


fig. 19

“ It is now time to revisit and repurpose the public space into a democratic, independent space, starting with the mosques that were forced on the people. We need mosques that are free from the ideology and the control of the government. We need mosques that add on to the social space. Turkey will finally change, when the mosques are freed, and given back to the people.� [39]

Korhan Gumus


Ahmet Turan Koksal of Radikal Newspaper, writes on how RTE, as the person in charge, finds the opportunity to try many different architectural styles, none of them being original. With the latest idea of Gezi Park being transformed into a replica building, it is really sad for especially architects who bear aesthetic and environmental sensitivities. Although this approach has a negative impact on people of all trades, it has a more profound impact on architects who are trained to design with their senses. He further questions, how can a group of architects and planners that the PM elected from his own political party, represent the whole country’s opinion on the social political space. [40]

-While saying that a mosque should look like a mosque, he indicated that his preference is the replicas of Mimar Sinan’s mosques. - When it comes to a public building, the style is considered more of a Seljuk-Ottoman Hybrid with usage of ornaments from both Empires. -When talking about the Istanbul Financial Center, referring to the image of the buildings being Dubaian style. -While mentioning that AKM is a very unsuccessful building, he underlines his intention to build a baroque style opera. - And finally besides all of the above, he mentions the rebuilding of Ottoman Barracks built in the exact same way yet intended as a shopping mall. [40]


fig. 20

“I look more at the streets and squares than only looking at the rally. The street has a language of its own. If you know how to read that, you will see what is real...”

Quote of RTE about 10 years ago [41]

It is quite different , how RTE’s approach have changed towards the reading of the public space.


“The number of the mosques are many where their architectural understanding is close to zero.” Dogan Hasol questions whether this is something caused by the fact that the architects are not even a part of building of the mosques. The mosques built in the last two years are the replicas of the mosques built by Mimar Sinan. [42]

Meanwhile Sinan Genim adds, “But of course, if a mosque has to be built over there, it does not really make any sense when one built the replica of a mosque built 400 years ago. We are living in the 21st century, and if a monument that makes a mark is to be done, that should definitely portray its time period and its contemporary.” [43]

It is no surprise that the administration chooses to create replicas than creating new, modernist, contemporary architecture to portray a modern country. One could think that the administration is playing it safe in order to implement these religious buildings as they are, yet the fact that they are almost exact replicas of Ottoman Period mosques, adds to the nostalgia of the Ottoman Era that the government is longing for. [43]



The Chamber of Architects suggested to the fellow architects that in order not to commit an urban crime, they recommended fellow architects not to participate in the tender Camlica Mosque Competition. As the project does not really respect the landscape, the silhouette. [44] Moreover Emre Arolat, a well known contemprary architect, adds that he also thinks that the administration also has the tendency to plant some architecture that would memorialize their power when they feel strong. That is why they rush their decisions and just build without thinking. Emre Arolat thinks that the administration chooses not to take risks when building the mosque over at Camlica Hill. Yet by putting a replica up there they are taking much greater risk to start with. It may seem like the administration is afraid of making mistakes and they want to go with the safe choice of making something that is already built. [43] It should be also noted that the Camlica Mosque is just a bad copy of the Blue Mosque, designed( or at this point only fitted to the look of the Blue Mosque) by two conservative women architects who are supporters of the AKP administration. [45]


Camlica Mosque’s contemporary rivals.

fig. 21

In her article, Zeynep Ozkartal writes about copying in architecture, speaking critically of the copied architecture of mosques that are newly built, Atasehir Mosque and Camlica Mosque. She stresses on the notion on the competition brief: “ The project should reflect the language of Turkish Ottoman architecture from the past to the future..”, together with the 40 days given for the whole competition timeline. [46]

Wouldn’t he be right if Mimar Sinan wakes up and looks around,and say “Why are you infidels still at the same place I left 400 years ago?” Contemporary mosque should interpret the modernity of Islam. A mosque is a place of meeting, not just a place to pray. Even in Suleymaniye Mosque there are 13 different functions within the campus. These people are building shopping malls within mosques!....

Cengiz Bektas [46] fig. 22


You can’t even design a dumpster in the given time over at the Camlica Hill. The principle in architecture is not to make a copy, the importance lies within making the new, stating new relations. Dogan Hasol [46] fig. 23

The mosque is not only a functional place, but it should also represent sublime, should create atmosphere. The mosque in Atasehir is just a caricature within the shadow of the high-rise buildings... These are statements of a shallow architectural culture.

Dogan Tekeli [46]

fig. 24

No one is trying to replicate Notre Dame or San Pietro. In the conservative community, no one is thinking about how to create a mosque that represents our time. We are facing an attitude of “I have decided and it will happen that way.” of the PM. The contemporary mosque should represent todays’ spatial organization,program and symbols of today. In such a manner, we have a lot to learn from old mosques, but this shouldn’t be about form and structure, but more about the morals. Hasan Calislar [46] fig. 25

Atasehir Mosque must have mislocated itself. Designing a mosque shouldn’t be about fitting into the form given, it should be recreated every time. Ihsan Bilgin [46] fig. 26

It is sad to create a concrete space that does not speak to its time. The religious architecture in Turkey is moving within the vicious cycle.

Mehmet Konuralp [46] fig. 27

Copying a structure that is 400 years old shows that we haven’t moved forward a year. Of course the notions of Islam shouldn’t change but people, space, urban space, technology changes with time. Mosque should aim to bring people together, to create public peace, and this shouldn’t be done through the size but actually by the spatial implementation. Melkan Tabanlioglu [46] fig. 28


Bahar Mizrak, the architect of the replica Blue Mosque, states that “ Our aspiration is not leaving the past behind or even racing with the past. We are architects and if there is an architect we should take as a role model, that should be Mimar Sinan.” . “People think our masterpiece is a copy of Mimar Sinan’s mosque but I don’t think it is a copy it is just a style.” For many critics the only thing that differs the design is only the 7th minaret which is apparently designed as a clock tower. [45]


fig. 29

Can you see the difference?


The Atasehir mosque, is the copy of the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, which was one of the great Mosque’s that Sinan had built. Art Historian, Prof. Dr. Semavi Eyice notes that “Selimiye was one of Sinan’s best built projects, and I doubt whoever was designing this new mosque. There is no way that one can build a copy that of very important architectural project. It is not very nice and ethical to rebuild a replica of an architectural project.” It should also be noted that TOKI,an organization for implementing housing development program that mainly builds large scale apartment units.Furthermore Eyup Muhcu, The head of Chamber of Architects, comments that TOKI’s main responsibility is producing major housing projects and TOKI lacks the aesthetic evaluation which inevitably leads to implement the construction of such structures without taking into consideration any cultural means. He adds that in art and architecture copy is the replica of the original, yet it will not really take over the original.

TOKI is given the power to become the main architecture of the country creating the Ottoman- Seljuk hybrid style that is decided by the government.

The replica Selimiye [Atasehir Mosque] •is disrespectful to Mimar Sinan by using his original architecture. •It is disrespectful to architects. Architects make landmarks, they change the urban setting, they make art. But when certain architecture is replicated,or someone is given the role of replicating, it means that the administration does not trust the architects. [47]


fig. 30

Pablo Picasso said, “I retain from copying, but especially I am really afraid to copy myself.” [47]

RTE comments: “ We needed a big mosque in the Asian side, to bring many people together.” “ We need to become one and build Turkey and Istanbul together. As the grandchildren of Mimar Sinan, we needed to build such a mosque in order to remember his legacy. There are no buildings in our country in his memory, it is happening for the first time.” [48]


fig. 31

Dogan Kuban is an architectural historian with an emphasis on mosques. In his writing on the architecture of mosques, he discusses the architecture of the traditional and the modern mosque and the Atasehir Mosque. He states that 100,000 mosques were built in the country in the last 50 years. And building just another one shouldn't be an important issue as building of the mosques have become a standart. People who don't know the history of mosques and the aesthetics and symbolism understand the mosque differently. It should be considered that the mosque is the house of the God and this is considered as art. The mosques were considered as great because of their creativity not because of their size. The mosques are not to be placed in the midst of high-rises. The minaret of the mosque are symbolic and functional elements, but when it is placed in the middle of the high-rises, it just has the imagery of chimney or TV tower. What makes a mosque big is not its dome, it is the design of the space that brings all the people together....Mosques should be beautiful and significant within the city. [33]


... When a replica of Mimar Sinan’s mosque is made, no one is going to say, “What a great building” , rather they would say, “What a hidious building”. Architects of these new mosques need to learn what they haven’t learned in school. The relationship between material and form hasn’t disappeared today. Mosques are built within the city where people could visit easily. The mosques built in the Ottoman Era, lie within the city, in the midst of the inhabitants. There are 40000 architects in Turkey, and within that multitude there shall be architects who will actually design a contemporary mosque, rather than doing replicas. We just have to trust them. Behruz Cinici did it in Ankara!. Vedat Dalokay did it in Islamabad! [33]

fig. 32

fig. 33




Is AKM’s future to be turned into a mosque? fig. 34







Site plan of the Taksim Square fig. 35



Although the new design was ready, The Ministry of Public Works could only allocate the below amounts on a yearly basis to proceed with the construction. 1959: 2 million 1961: 10 million 1963: 5 million 1965: 7 million 1967: 11 million 1968: 26 million

1957 The new design taken over by Architect Hayati Tabanlioglu, continued from the carcass of the old design of the building, and the new design was ready by April 1957, when the construction of the project is passed on to the architect Hayati Tabanlioglu, yet it was stopped for about three years due to the revolution of 1960 coup.

1953 Effective of July 15, 1953 the Municipality was not able to continue the project for financial reasons. Then the Ministry of Finance took over the project.

1946 The construction for the Opera house began on may 29, 1946 by architect and designer Rukneddin Gunay, when Lutfi Kirdar was the Mayor of istanbul

fig. 36

fig. 37 fig. 38

2005 In 2005 ,the building was suggested to be demolished by Atilla Koc, the former Minister of Culture. [49]

1978 After a period of seven years during which the art lovers waited patiently the building was opened in 1978, this time named as Ataturk Cultural Center (AKM)

1970 On November, 27 , 1970, due to a fire, more than half of the building was destroyed. Ironically the building burns down during Arthur Miller’s play: The Crucible. The stage and partly the seating area was caught fire. Apparently the fire was caused by technical problems. Through the restoration everything was updated, technical equipment and fire equipment was restored with new equipment.

1969 In April 12, 1969 it was permitted for independent departments of State Opera and Ballet, and State Theatre to be housed in the building.

1969 In early 1969 and was given the name Cultural Center and many art activities started to be displayed with the opening of this Center.

fig. 39

fig. 40


fig. 41

Parts of the Modernism Besides the whole building acting as a symbol of modernsim, it had deliberately designed parts that balance between the ornamentalism and modernism. From the faâ€ŒĂ§ade to the ceiling tiles, the project bears the notions of the ornamentalism that is embedded in the culture, yet the simple lines allow these parts to be read as a whole.


Main Entrance Facade The glass facade conveys the activity of the building to Taksim square. The lattice structure is set front of the glass and made out of grinatal aluminium. [50]

fig. 42

Circular Stairway The glass stairway has a diagmeter of 7 m. in which each step is hung from the ceiling with steel bars. [50]

fig. 43

Parterre Foyer Ceiling The suspended timber plates from a pattern that runs the whole foyer, integrated with cylindrical lights. [50]

fig. 44

Grand Hall Ceiling The beige aluminium ceiling descends towards the stage and is made out of equilateal triangles which measure 112 cm. The light structure is located at the apex of the pyramid. [50]

fig. 45




fig. 46

Sydney Opera

It was built in 3 years, for 422 million $ , And the monthly fee for running the building is 2,1 mil $ [51]


Built 1955-1973 overall 122 million $ was spent. For the renovation projects overall 344 million $ was spent. And the monthly cost for running the building is 5 million $


Apparently we will need about 120 million TL for the renovation of the building. And 200 million Turkish lira for building a new opera house.


fig. 47

Copenhagen Opera House

fig. 48

Welsh Opera House

Opened in 1966 , yet it had gone through many renovations throughout the years, And the monthly fee for running the building is 17 mil $ with all the production fees of all the shows. [51]

Built in 2004 for 210 million $. And the monthly fee for running the building is 992.000$ [51]

Built around the same time, the opera houses besides AKM, still remain a functioning landmark in their city.

fig. 49

Metropolitan Opera House

fig. 50


Istanbul Opera will open in 1962

Istanbul Culture Center’s name is changed to Ataturk Cultural Center.

Istanbul Opera will open with the premiere of Aida and Cesmebasi


The damage is 42 million in the Culture Center.

Istanbul Opera will open its doors, October 1964.

Workers started a strike in the construction of the Opera, that has been going on for 22 years.


Julliard Quartet will play for the renovation of Ataturk Cultural Center

President Demirel: “We will fix the building as soon as possible. Archived Headlines from Cumhuriyet Newspaper [52]


Front facade of the bulding


fig. 51


Grand Foyer


fig. 52



fig. 53


fig. 54

Circular Stairway


Instance fom the Grand Hall

fig. 55


Grand Hall stage


fig. 56



Building Section fig. 57



Building Plan fig. 58


WHAT ABOUT THE AKM ? a conversation between Omer Kapinak and Ihsan Bilgin [53]

AKM is located at a corner where Taksim has access to the Bosphorus. There is a reason why it was built there and that should be regarded in the larger concept.

AKM shares the same architectural plan with Gezi Park . It is feared that during the implementation of a new plan for the area – the whole area will be reshaped , closed to traffic and converted to a structure with no access which consequently transforms Taksim Area into a bottleneck area with no means of breathing. The main cause of this turmoil is that a cultural strategy is developed in the past years.


Furthermore the cultural strategy should be so wisely arranged that it should not be left to the mercy of any ruling government and the decisions should be made multilaterally with the views of all participating professional bodies as well as related NGOs. People meet there.. When demolishing the building,designers need to acknowledge that it is a popular site. People know the space and they like to meet there. This shouldn’t be taken away from the people of the city. This creates the characteristics of the space, that building with its own greatness stands there in its place.

Ihsan Bilgin

Omer Kapinak

I would wonder what would happen if the government had even the strategy. In that case we would have to trust so much more to the government. Yet I don’t trust the government, I just hope that they won’t make any more bad choices...

fig. 59

While the conversation of demolition of AKM is still going on, the police have barricaded AKM, during the Gezi Protests. During and even after the protests the police forces were based and waiting in front of the Ataturk Cultural Center. AKM still remains the center for the Police organization even after the protests. Umut Oran of CHP party comments,

“Has AKM turned into the police department?� [54]

As the building acted part of the protest for creating a space for visually implementing thoughts, the administration still sees the building as a threat. Thus creating a human barricade around the building reassures the power of the administration. The barricade, still questions the future of the AKM, while not being renovated, the building is completely isolated from the city.


WHAT ABOUT THE SQUARE ? Taksim square is the house, the site of AKM, as well as one of the main squares of the city. Guven Gurkan Oztan notes that Taksim is a place where no matter what one can feel free. [55] Not only with its historic buildings, churches, hidden streets, but also with its people; running or standing, protesting, fighting, kissing, surveying, filming. ... Taksim not only served for the daily life but it also acted towards the course of political and intellectual events.

Gezi Park and Taksim Square have been the event spaces of public politics; with speeches, protests, monuments.


27 May 1960 Military Coop took place. The monument in the square called the “Independence Monument� is answered with another monument wrapped in daphne leaves, that was put across from the AKM.

1960 Arrangement in the Taksim Gezi, and the square. The idea of closing Istiklal Street to traffic is on the table.

1956 The news about demolishing buildings around the park in order to build Hilton.

1950 Democrat Party is in power. Their main agenda becomes, resituating Taksim Square and promoting the Congress Valley:

looking into the history of the square... [55]

2013 AKP decides to remove Gezi Park, for rebuilding the replica of Ottoman Baracks on its long gone original site. And revisits the discussion of building a mosque in the site of AKM while pushing the idea of the demolision of AKM further.

Early 1990s During the reign of Refah Party ( a political pary with islamic affiliations) the discussion of a mosque to be built in Taksim Square is brought to the public’s attention.

1983-1989 During Turgut Ozal Period, the renovation of Tarlabasi( an area adjacent to Taksim Sqaure) starts.

12 September1981 Second Military Coop happens. The daphne monument associated with the first coup is removed by the political party in power.

fig. 60

“ In Turkey, whomever wants to prove their political and social power will choose to deal with Taksim Square. ”

Guven Gurkan Oztan [55]



Together with the new constitution, the Beyazit Square’s name was changed to Independence Square. Together with the new name, the government tries to re-plan the area, yet the square still acts as the political ground for student protests. While in Taksim,there was a giant bayonet sculpture that was built to show who owned the space.


During Early days of the Republic, people found out the potential of Taksim Square to become the political ground. As a lot of non-muslim people were living in the area, the square and the surroundings had gone through a Turkification period.


The political space shifts towards Hagia Sofia Square. The square was spread out by clearing the buildings around.


The Political-Urban programization was utilized within the Beyazit Square. The square was isolated from the surrounding shopping areas, and it gets turned into a traffic junction. From a lively square it was turned into a void.


Ugur Tanyeli of Arkitera, gives an insight about the political site of Taksim and what has gone through over time. Yet through this, he questions the dead end caused by iconic- ideologic changes that is going on with the govenment and its reflections on changing the urban space. [56]

We are in the middle of a two hundred year old issue, where there is no emphasis on urban planning or architectural needs of the public space. While there are many other places in Istanbul, Taksim sqaure somehow becomes the point of tension of every type of building/planning/demolition to occur.


Beginning of 90s, the Taksim square was set up for a new feud. This was about a giant mosque to be built on the square. This was a political feud that had noting to do with the religious needs of the resident.


Even after the Military coup of 1980, the military takes on the Beyazit square and aims for the square not to become a protest space. In Taksim, military takes down the bayonet sculpture .


fig. 61


Social, political and architectural historian Orhan Esen, talks about the role of Taksim square within the social and political context. He mentions in his writing that since Istiklal street had been closed to car traffic, two separate functions have emerged. Taksim Square became an extension of Istiklal street. With this extension ,the public center became the event city, the place for the city to display its performance. This performance could be political, social, a marionette show, street festival, celebration, concert or even a TV show. The square is always under the public surveillance, a place that will always turn to the media. Thus with this context given by Esen, assures the role of the square and even the buildings around for being a place of broadcasting. [57]

“Taksim, since 90s, is not a site anymore, it has become a stage. �

fig. 62


Orhan Esen


fig. 63

Emre Kongar also list the projects that have consolidated in the Taksim Square, in his documentary book on the protests over the summer, “Gezi Direnisi”. [58] “ There are four different projects are going on in Taksim Square. 1.Pedestrianization of the square ...The aim of the project is to hide the traffic underground. 2.Restoration of AKM or destruction and rebuilding of AKM ...the future of the building is unknown. 3. Ottoman Barracks project ...besides the rebuilding of a long gone Ottoman building, the situation bears an ideological agenda. -Reviving the Ottoman Power, since the Barracks were built by the Sultan - Since in March 31 Incident in 1909, the military started the protest from the Barracks, the building may seem like a memorialization of the event. 4. Taksim Mosque Project In earlier discussion, the mosque project was thought to be situated across AKM. But Later, RTE mentioned during the protest that the mosque will be situated on the site of AKM. This will be the first thing one would see coming up towards Taksim Square. There is no solid proposal for any project yet.


The minister of Culture Atilla Koc tells that the AKM will be demolished and rebuilt. and he hopes that no one will interfere with this process. [53]

fig. 64

The writers have interviewed with Korhan Gumus and Ugur Tanyeli about minister Koc’s comment on AKM being demolished . Ugur Tanyeli: comments that there is no place on the earth that will demolish a building whose completion has not even passed fifty years. It should be noted that even to replace the technical parts of the building is very expensive. Where Korhan Gumus comments on the fact that the current discourse should concentrate on the role of culture in the discussion with the possible removal of the building. [59]

fig. 65

Ece Baktiaya states that the title given to the AKM building as the “cultural heritage� is trying to be taken away to rebuild the opera center. [60]



Erkan Aktug summarizes the general views by the leading architects that demolishing the AKM will be such a luxury in this economical era. [61]

fig. 67

Korhan Gumus. the minister of Culture, Atilla Koc’s comment on “ the people who think AKM shouldn’t be demolished are obscurants!” Korhan Gumus replies to Mr. Koc’s quote that cultural entities should start to have a conversation within each other, in a professional way. [62]

fig. 68

In the meeting that brought many artists, actors and actresses, opera singers and ballerinas; Bedri Baykam, a renowned painter commented that “The government is trying to take down AKM in order to create their mosque project that they wanted to build for many years.” [63]

fig. 69


There is a continuous rumor that the AKM will be demolished. Meanwhile detailed search conducted by architect Sukru Kocagoz reveals the laws that basically shows that this saying is just a speculation. [64] 1. the law passed by the Preservation department on 06.01.1999, AKM was named a cultural heritage and that it needs to be preserved 2. by the same department, it was decided to become a part of the premiere group to be preserved 3. its facade drawings are stamped and not to be changed 4. on 14.05.2008 the permit was given only to work on the restoration of the building.

What do these permits mean? 1. AKM is a building that portrays the modernist architecture of Turkey and draws attention to the modern era. It should be preserved as a cultural heritage 2. the fact that its under the premiere group means that nothing could be changed regarding the way it looks without consulting to the architect 3. the fact that its facade drawings are stamped means that in case of a destruction, it needs to be rebuilt exactly the way it was built. 4. The restoration project was given permit to preserve the building for it to sustain for a longer time.


fig. 70


Huseyin Kaptan of IMP( Istanbul Metropolitan Planning ) Project Manager, states that there should be done many other things until it is time to demolish the building. Taksim square bears a lot of pressure being the center of the city, and in order to take that stress out of the square, there should be many other city centers. [65 ] Also Ihsan Bilgin, an architect who worked with the chief architect of the AKM Hayati Tabanlioglu, summarizes that -AKM should be restored as a modern cultural entity. - in terms of sustainabilty, AKM is not only a cultural heritage but also an economical building. - AKM should be an interdisciplinary project.


In an interview with Dogan Tekeli, The Chair of Architects of Istanbul, he comments that it has been rumoured that AKM would not be able to survive through an earthquake, yet he emphisizes that it is only a rumor. He especially wonders who actually did the calculations in order to claim this argument. Ever since the discussion of the demolishing has been on the table, the government always states that it will not survive through an earthquake, yet there are no solid reports on this exact fact. He comments if anyone asked Prof. Dr. Ismet Aka, the structural engineer of the project. Furthermore he wonders why some do not value the building as a cultural heritage of the modern architecture which Turkey mainly lacks. [66] Meanwhile, in 2008 Istanbul was named the Culture Capital. With this title given at the time, it was surprising that some cultural centers such as AKM and Emek Cinema (a culturally significant black box theather) were intended to be demolished while some centers such as the Culture and Congress Center in Ayazaga and Sutluce Cultural Center were deserted in their carcass form for many years. [67]


Korhan Gumus questions the governments take on the creation of such cultural and congress centers, that are forced into the center of the city. “ People think the Congress tourism will make Istanbul a better city, instead this will kill Istanbul.� [66]

fig. 71

The Culture and Congress Centers in Ayazaga and Sutluce Cultural Center are not exactly at the hub of the city. Since Istanbul is a multicentered city, these cultural centers were implanted in the outermost centers to revive those areas of the city and to redirect people away from the already congested areas of the city. When the first congress center was constructed in the 1950s, in the area adjacent to AKM, not many people were interested in the conversation.[68] This may have been the lack of the urban planning organizations or maybe due to the fact that many were not aware of the importance of such issues. Consequently people were adjusted to just go with it. But with the change of the technology era and the growing numbers of well educated architects and planners in the city, in the following years more related professional are conscious about the change and do not hesitate to make their comments regarding the future shaping of such public spaces.


Sutluce Cultural Center and Maslak Ayazaga Congress Center are two projects that started in 1997. Fortunately Sultuce Center was completed recently but Ayazaga Center is still in its carcass form. Although 161 Million $ was spent on Ayazaga project, 60 Millon $ was necessary to finish the projects at that time.And now the project still needs an additional 70 million $. [69] In the discussion at Bahcesehir University on the subject AKM and the Congress Valley, Melkan Tabanlioglu comments on the fact that renovation of AKM is much of a better option than rebuilding it, considering the fact the Ayazaga cultural Center hasn’t been completed in the last 12 years and Sutluce Cultural Center for 9 years. [65]

Architectural language of Sutluce Cultural Center is noteworthy. It is pretty clear that the building is using the Ottoman-Seljuk hybrid architecture, yet it still is respectful to the history of the building. As the former building was a slaughterhouse, the new building keeps the form and built around it. fig. 73


fig. 72

In case of the complete demolition of AKM, it may share the same fate with the other cultural centers which were incomplete for years. In the same panel, Ugur Tanyeli of Yildiz Technical University comments that the discussion is more on “preserving-or not preserving” versus” preserving – not demolishing”. He further comments that in many other countries they never demolish a building that is not even 40 years old, where in Turkey any building over 30 years is considered old and somehow the government leaves those buildings to their fate than sustaining and preserving in order to meet today’s standards and technology rather. [65] Murat Tabanlioglu, writes in Radikal Newspaper that, while AKM as a opera building will be very expensive, along with its moral meaning as a historical site to the city. Yet the government should see that demolishing the building will be so much more expensive, not to mention the fact that it will take years to build the new one. There are many buildings around the world which had gone through this discussion of renovation vs. demolishing, for example, Centre Pompidou. [20]


-Not to mention the tall buildings named “OnaltiDokuz” built in Zeytinburnu, which are nowhere near to be demolished. They are a result of bad urban planning and obviously not enough planning. When it was realized that the silhouette was disrupted, first there were no legal reasons given to chop down the buildings, to bring back the original silhouette.The court decided recently that the parts of the building that interferes with the historical silhouette will be trimmed. Yet it is a question whether this “trimming” would actually happen. [71]

The government is passing the new law of disempowering the architects ,taking away the requirement to get permission of the architects of the buildings in order to make further changes unilaterally without getting the permission and approval of the architect. According to Betul Atasoy of Arkitera, this is intended to single handedly intervene with the buildings which is unilaterally considered to disrupt the silhouette of Istanbul. [70]

fig. 74


Yildiz Ucak writes about a conversation in the TV show named, Son Baski prepared by Murat Birsel. An employer at the Ministry of Culture, Mustafa Isen calls in to say that in order to make Turkey a better more economically and culturally developed place, we need more cultural centers and auditoriums. And in order to do that demolishing AKM is the easiest and closest way to take a step toward development. And he also mentions that as the Ministry of Culture they have started on their process of taking away the cultural heritage permit on the building. [72]

As commented by Aykan Cufaoglu of Haberturk newspaper, on June 15, AKM was named a historical site, by the Cultural Association. AKM was certified as a cultural heritage in the 1990s, for the fact that it was a building that represented the Republican Era. It was emptied in the year 2008 for renovation of the building to get ready for 2010 Istanbul Cultural Capital festivities. At the end of 2001 68 million TL (Turkish Lira) was funded for the renovation to continue, since then the renovation has been going off and on. [73]

The main question is, if and when such cultural centers are to be demolished, would they be built in the same way and the same manner the architects have built them? Would they still keep their original names ?

“WE will demolish if we need to, but we will demolish in order to build. AKM was burned down by anarchists and communists in 1970 because the bourgeoisie was having fun in that building.� [74]

Minister of Culture Atilla Koc



“AKM will be demolished. We will build a cultural center that will be the opera. Yes, we will also build a mosque. I am not going to get permission from a couple of looters to make this happen.”

“We have planted about 3 billion trees. Look! I am not saying 3 million, 3 billion and we are the government that built about160 parks. Can a goverment that does such things be against nature?... We are embracing the history that is why we are going to build those barracks.” fig. 75

“AKM will hopefully be demolished. We will build an opera as the cultural center... And we will build a mosque... We are given the permission to do this by the people who have elected us”


“We are not going to let a couple of looters to provoke people to protest. We were elected to save the history.” “I am not a dictator. I am not the king. Dictatorship is not in my blood, I am a servant of this country. If people are looking for a dictator, they should look at their past.”

“We are building three projects that are intertwined in Taksim. There is nature there, history and culture.”

Quote’s from RTE’s speech during the protests, at the Halic Congress Center. [75]


Taksim Mosque After the news about the mosque that was to be bult in the Taksim Square in November 2012, architect Ahmet Vekif Alp was commissioned by Taksim Mosque Culture and Art Foundation, to design a mosque for the Taksim Square. According to Taraf Newspapers article, the project was denied by RTE, for the reason that he wanted a classic mosque in the square. It is noted in the article that there is about 2600 meter sq footprint proposed for the Taksim Mosque. Since the area was owned by the Treasury, the Chamber of Architects filed a complaint about the site turning into a religious site. Yet, the complaint was denied and it was decided that the area needed a mosque, with the reasoning that the urban population in the area have changed a lot over the past 100 years.

Apparently Ahmet Vekif Alp’s design consisted of a colored dome which was seen as the modernist architectural move. The mosque would have also house a parking garage and shopping mall underground. He described his design as, “When the mosque is seen from top, a crescent and star shape is perceived that symbolized the Turkish flag. When approaching from the square, the mosque will resemble the rising sun in the mornings and the rising moon at night. ” [76] fig. 76


fig. 77

An article published on Radikal Newspaper on 11/29/2012 by Sercan Ocak, looks deeper into the Taksim Mosque Project. Although chosen by the Foundation as the project to get built, Ahmet Vekif Alp’s project was too contemporary for RTE’s taste in architecture. Alp states that, he thinks the mosque on top of Camlica hill is not right. “... When across the Bosphorus, the original mosque Sultanahmet ( Blue Mosque) is standing, the fact that a replica is being built is really upsetting for the Turkish Architecture.” “... Even in Saudi Arabia there are contemporary mosques being built. While Saudi Arabia is heading towards contemporary , it is wrong for us to copy the old mosques. Architecture only has value, if it reflects its time. It is wrong to copy a cultural building that was built with the aesthetics and meaning that was built 500 years ago.’ Alp also makes a comment on the general philosophy of architecture- underlining that in order to have value, architecture should reflect its time span. Architecture should inform about the community and site and time period. If we look at the remains of old civilizations, archeology of architecture is the discipline that gives us information about lifestlye and time period of the unknown past. It creates a confusion when this equation is reversed. [77]




Riza Turmen identifies the cultural shift that Turkey has been going through, with the rise of the Islamic Political Party in power as the aim.

The rising power of the governmentplays a role in the changing and dislocating of ideologies. This effort is indeed the intent of reshaping of the society along an axis based in religion aiming to dislocate the secular nature of the Republic.

Culture shift


by Riza Turmen*

The Turkish Republic has achieved a great cultural transformation after the birth of the Republic in 1923. The new Republic had aimed to create a new national culture and chose to break all connections with the Ottoman Culture in a radical manner. Secularism, clothing reform, alphabet reform, reform of women’s rights have rightfully formed a new republican culture. It was inevitable that this contemporary culture which aimed universality and modernization would consequentially lead to democratization. Although great steps were taken in these areas, the coups and the conventional structures hindered the proper establishment of the democratic culture during the decades following the first ten years of the Turkish Republic. Religion always had an important place in the life of the Anatolian peole. This did not change after the transformation to the Turkish Republic. However the role of religion within the society changed. In 1980s and 1990s a new middle class evolved who are closely bound by religious values. Mean while following large scale migration from the villages to towns, a new civil society evolved at the outskirts of the big cities. In these areas religion began to shape the everyday life of the people and a new life style came into existence. A political party defending Islamic values won local elections for municipal administration of big cities like Istanbul and Ankara .Meanwhile intensification of religiously oriented institutions and communities resulted in the domination of the religion in the everyday life of many citizens. And consequently as a result of these changes –an alternative culture evolved with the intent of dominating and replacing the republican culture. During the past ten years religion entered to state establishments. This lead to the shift in culture and the restructuring of the society on the axis of religion. This also led to the formation of an Islamic bourgeoisie complete with its press, television networks, wedding saloons and resorts. Also these developments led to authoritarianism of the leading party rather than democratization and caused the domineering of the religiously affiliated communities which brought a culture of submissiveness which intended to leave no space for individualism. Thus when making projections regarding Turkey’s future, one should take into consideration the connection among the culture shift and the efforts focused to the replacement of the Republican Culture by the Islamic Culture and authoritarianism.

*a former judge of the European Court of Human Rights and currently an MP for Izmir in the Turkish Parliament, with the Republican People’s Party



Despite all the turmoil that Turkey has been experiencing in the recent years due to the culture shift; I am sure that eventually the people of Turkey will understand the importance of the gains achieved since the cultural transformation, that started with the declaration of the Turkish Republic in 1923. And days will come where individualism will prevail against culture of submissiveness, where everyone will be more tolerant against people who have chosen a different lifestyle. Democracy will reign against authoritarianism and Turkey will continue to be an unique example as a predominantly Moslem country which has accomplished the above gains in the area.



All Turkish text, translated by Nazli Ergani

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