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Istanbul is the biggest city in Turkey with over 20 million population. The city located where Asia and Europe meet, divided by Bosphorus which is the canal separates two continent and it has a strong cultural heritage because of its geographical location.

Map of the Roman Empire about 395    Source:

The history of the city goes back 2600 years, during the ancient Roman era, it was known as Constantinople and it was one of the biggest cities of the Roman Empire along with Rome, Athens and Antioch. After the Roman empire split into two, the city became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) and after that, it was the capital of the Ottoman empire.

Map of Constantinople    Source:

After the Republic of Turkey founded in 1923, because of the financial problems after world war one as well as the poor implementations and policies the city failed to conservative its heritage from the Roman Empire with a comparison to Athens and Rome.

Divan Yolu (Istanbul) and Via del Corso (Rome), Roads remain from the ancient Roman era         Source:,

Also, the city failed to conservative its heritage from the Ottoman Empire era with the same reasons, but another reason was during the Ottoman Empire era except for monumental buildings such as palaces and mosques, main construction material was the wood. Disasters especially great fires almost destroyed most of these buildings.

Fatih fire -1918     Source:

During the Ottoman Empire era fires were happening so frequently. According to famous Turkish writer Tanpinar, people were finding a good spot to watch these fires because they became a part of daily life. It is possible to run across these historical wooden buildings between concrete ones all over the historical parts of the city. Even though in some parts of Istanbul such as Kuzguncuk, wooden buildings well preserved.

Wooden houses of Zeyrek (left) and Kuzguncuk (Right) Source:,

Starting from the 1950s use of concrete became common and as a result, low rise concrete buildings occupied the historical parts of the city. Also, in this period, people from all over the country started to move to Istanbul and uncontrolled population growth caused uncontrolled urban growth, as a result, historic areas of the city become denser and started to lose their historical character.

Concrete buildings from Historic Peninsula         Source:

All these changes affect the city negatively in many aspects however plans that prepared in that period had an option for builders. The option was if they want, they can build a mixed-use building with the condition of ground-floor retail. This decision gave an opportunity to newcomers of the city for starting their own business and they used this opportunity very efficiently. When you walk in the historic parts of the city it is possible to bump into all kind of shops at least you can find a grocery store in two-minute walking distance wherever you are.

Ground floor retail at back streets of Fatih     Source:

Some of the people, who chose to open their shop with the same functions, gathered and some streets start to be known with those functions such as streets of the antiquarian and textile street. All these shops bring vitality to the streets as well as encouraging neighbourhood relations. The whole process developed naturally it was just an option, but it was a good decision that supported by people.

Antiquarian street, Uskudar      Source:

Nowadays Istanbul failing to maintain this vitality, especially in newly built modern areas. High rise modern buildings became very popular and the government endeavoured these implementations by changing the constriction law not only in blank sites but also in historical parts with urban renewal projects. It is a fact the old buildings have no architectural style or high quality but thanks to them streets has vitality.

Urban renewal, Bomonti     Source:

Now we are exchanging vitality to empty streets, diversity to zoning, low rise to high rise buildings in order to get high-quality well-looking tall buildings.

The Maiden’s Tower and the skyscrapers     Source:

PS: I wasn’t able to attend Charette week events because of my late arrival to Newcastle. So, I wrote this post instead of Charette post.


Keyder, Ç. (2000). Enformel konut piyasasından küresel konut piyasasına. Çağlar Keyder (ed.) inside İstanbul: Küresel ile Yerel Arasında, 171-191.

Ürekli, F. (2010). Osmanlı döneminde İstanbul’da meydana gelen afetlere ilişkin literatür. Türkiye Araştırmaları Literatür Dergisi, (16), 101-130.

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