Thursday, August 13, 2009


As Niyazi watched the sun set over the Princes’ Islands, the sea of multiple storey concrete apartments merged into the perspective. With no formal planning or architectural education, the Kartal representative of the Platform for Istanbul’s Neighbourhood Associations was now speaking a language that could bargain in the negotiations with the Kartal and Istanbul Metropolitan Municipalities, as well as the landowners and a UK-based architectural office on behalves of his 10,000 fellow residents of Hürriyet neighbourhood, located on the hills behind Kartal. He knew most of the residents, who settled through mass migration in the 1970’s, fought hard to obtain “amnesty registry” for their illegally constructed houses, started off as single-storey houses, now turned into multi-storey extended family and relatives living spaces[i]. Now, he was part of the negotiations during the development of the famous Kartal redevelopment project. Soon, Niyazi’s perspective could alter completely, overlooking a wavy sketch of glass and steel towers with a luxurious yacht marina on its tail.

Kartal lies in the southeast of Istanbul, stretching from the Marmara Sea in its south, with an elevation up to 500 metres towards its water and green reservoirs surrounded by the TEM highway to its the north. The district encompasses over 68 km2; decades of growth rates near 50% saw the population reach 427,156[ii] that consists of white-collar workers, small-scale tradesmen and industrialists. Like many other peripheral districts in Istanbul, it has grown immensely since the 1950’s with incoming migration into its heavily industrialised areas; and lack of implementation of development plans saw 85% of the housing stock made up of poor concrete material, many of which is illegal, and 25% of the population still live in gecekondus[iii].

It is connected to the rest of the city and beyond via the E-5 and TEM motorways, the suburban railway and the municipal and inter-city ferries from the Kartal pier. The planned Kadıköy – Kartal metro extension and the completion of Marmaray and upgrade on the suburban rail are aimed to make Kartal a major transport hub. With its close proximity to Sabiha Gökçen Airport and attraction areas such as the Istanbul Formula 1 track, the newly developing Pendik ‘silicon valley’, and Sabancı University, Kartal has become a natural candidate to be designated as a new sub-centre, a major tool of Istanbul’s de-centralisation policies. Creating a new CBD in Kartal aims to alleviate the pressure from the city-centre and its northern axis, whilst creating 100,000 new employment and affecting a grand population of 2 million in the region[iv]

Around 550 hectares of the derelict industrial area was part of an urban design competition, won by Zaha Hadid Architects in 2006. This regeneration plan, consistent with the city’s ambitions of bringing in signature architects, sits alongside one of the more ambitious projects in Europe, scale of which resembles the likes of HafenCity in Hamburg.

Kartal redevelopment project is championed by many as the first large-scale redevelopment project in Istanbul that involves all the necessary actors during its realisation: the respective municipalities, the landowners/developers, the master planners and architects; as well as the local residents. Initiated by the IMP, it has created its own landowners’ association, formed by some 26 main landowners who pursue negotiation via a designated urban negotiator whose job is to maintain the communication between the actors involved. The larger scale masterplan was approved by Kartal municipality, governed by an AKP Mayor prior to 2009 local elections, but the construction could not have started before 1/1000 scale, local development plans came into place.

In the meanwhile, Kartal, a district traditionally voting social-democrat, re-elected a Mayor from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in March 2009, ending the short spell with the AKP. This halted the ongoing process for the preparation of 1/1000 local development plans for the regeneration project until the lead actors have convinced the new mayor Dr. Altınok Öz. As of July 2009, the IMP representatives were hopeful to get the plans approved and the construction to begin by next year[v]. As the financial gloom has yet to dissolve, main landowner developers such as the Eczacıbaşı Holding is yet to confirm the start of the construction[vi]. It will take at least another few years of bargaining before the Kartal skyline changes, but what will remain will mark its signature as a new way of urban redevelopment in Istanbul. Until then, who will be the residents in Kartal in due time to see these effects, shall remain as a mystery.

[i] Interview with Niyazi Şahin, Kartal representative for the Platform for Istanbul Neighbourhoods Association, August 2008.

[ii] Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

[iii] Kartal District Mayorship (

[iv] Zaha Hadid Architects, Kartal Masterplan Design Brief Document, 2006.

[v] E-mail correspondence with Mr. Özdemir Sönmez at the IMP, July 2009.

[vi] Interview with Mr. Mehmet İmre, the head of Eczacıbaşı Construction, July 2009.

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