A little less construction

A little less construction

Olympics 2020 IstanbulAnd the Olympics in 2020 go to … Tokyo. I was relieved by this choice of the Olympics Committee as it saved my beloved city Istanbul from the many construction projects that would follow. Projects that would take away the few remaining green space and replace them with more concrete and steel…

Istanbul does not need more and more buildings. It needs some air and some space. This was one of the strongest messages of the Gezi protests after all, but unfortunately this is a message that does not fit the vision and plans of the AKP government. Underlying this vision is an idea of development that rests on continuous growth.

Growth/development becomes concretized (literally) in more apartments, more malls, more roads, more bridges, and more airports. There are more cars and congestion, so Istanbul needs a new bridge, is the rationale. This was what we were told when the second Bosporus bridge was built. We then experienced how the bridge created its own traffic. Once upon a time, when I was young, that bridge and the roads leading to it were almost empty. Surrounding the roads were no buildings but trees or vegetation. Soon after, apartments and businesses started to fill up this new urban space. Now, both this old new bridge and its roads are often congested. No fortuneteller is needed to forecast that a third bridge is likely to create the same effect in no time, especially with a construction-loving government in power.

The current AKP government sees construction projects as the embodiment of the ‘good services’ it delivers to citizens. No wonder why Erdoğan was taken aback by the Gezi protests, despite all these additions to the Turkish landscape. In the AKP rallies organized as a response to Gezi, Erdoğan was proudly announcing yet new construction projects, like the new giant demonstration area in Yenikapı – a service to the protesters!

The mind-blowing aspect of all these construction projects is the speed at which they are undertaken. It seems like the construction companies are ready to start the work almost the very moment the decision is taken. Let alone having a say on it, the residents of Istanbul do not even get the time to get used to the idea of such urban projects which sometimes transform whole neighborhoods. Loads of trucks are on their way the next day, carrying sand and cement. As a result, the city is an ongoing construction site. That’s one of the major reasons why no Olympics for the next seven years and a little less construction in Istanbul sounds like a good plan to me.