Istanbul 2012

The Conflicted City: Hyper-growth, Urban Renewal and Mass Urbanization in Istanbul

The 2011/12 class of Affiliate Fellows focused on sustainable development within cities experiencing hyper-growth, looking for best practices or cautionary tales that might inform cities such as Seattle that are also undergoing rapid growth and development. Istanbul, like Seattle, is a mecca for a generation of young, creative class entrepreneurs who have been flocking to and expanding the reach of the urban center in recent years. Istanbul is a city riddled with conflicts: old versus new; sprawl versus growth limits; global aspirations versus deep local history. Its ecological and social future appears fragile and its heritage and historical identity seem threatened by car-oriented urban renewal and sprawl that is happening at a very intimidating pace and scale. One project that embodies this trend is the decision to build a third bridge over the Bosporus in the relatively unspoiled northern reaches of the region over the objections of the metropolitan planning authority. Despite the lessons learned over the last 50 years by global cities about the adverse impacts of car dominant development, Turks are exuberant about car ownership as a symbol of middle class prosperity and seem to have little time for reflection about what is being lost in the race to build highways and shopping malls. The Fellows believe that Seattle’s experience offers Istanbul an alternative model – the diversion of even a small portion of real estate development into the hands of small infill developers can preserve key pockets of authenticity, human-scale public spaces and nexuses of traditional social interaction. Such projects improve livability and create long term value for all surrounding development. Ultimately, Istanbul is indeed a cautionary tale for Seattle – investments in transit and preservation of local neighborhood character do pay off in an enduringly appealing city, poised to compete for global economic development over the long term.