Atelier Arnavutköy:  strategies for Istanbul’s sustainability

The Arnavutköy Istanbul project for International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam starts from the fact that cities that are on a trajectory of growth and development put huge pressure on their immediate agricultural perimeters, which in turn leads to a fast transformation process of the agricultural economy and the landscape. This kind of productive landscape is often part and parcel of watershed and forest areas, and the urbanization pressure therefore poses a threat to the lifeline of the cities themselves in terms of their ecological sustainability, if not their survival. It is not only that the city’s environmental quality is adversely affected but also its identity is at stake.
The expansion of the city that is taking place today in Istanbul through large scale mono-cultural living environments – like gated communities and public housing projects all over the city – is deepening and furthering the erosion of the grammar of the landscape, the topography and the physical setting, and of the local identity. This rolled-out built form – with its condominiums, car parks, swimming pools, sport centers and so forth – which is generic and totally unconnected to locality and particularity, represents a radical departure from the feel and identity of the place. The urban metabolism of the city is out of kilter.
The idea triggering the collaboration between the IABR and the Municipality of Arnavutköy was to see if Arnavutköy can be put on another track of urbanization different from the destiny that seemed inevitable within the existing frame of governance and city making. Situated on the two of İstanbul’s seven drinking water resource areas, Arnavutköy holds the key to Istanbul’s sustainability. The collaboration with the IABR offered a very interesting opportunity to take what the Biennale called a ‘sabattical detour’, that is to say, to create a reflective space to consider this question: can city making not be done differently so that we do not lose those values and assets that underline its very sustainability and which we also happen to cherish? The Arnavutköy project that developed over two years in the form of an Atelier developed a bottom-up methodology to thinking about and acting on our urban challenges.

BIO | Asu Aksoy teaches at the Cultural Management department at İstanbul Bilgi University and she is the director of the Cultural Policy and Management Research Centre (KPY). She is the Istanbul curator of the Istanbul test site project for the 5th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, and also part of the curatorial team of the Making City Istanbul 2012 exhibition in Istanbul. Dr. Aksoy has published many essays on the cultural and social aspects of Istanbul’s urban development. She was one of the members of the Istanbul 2010 European Capital Of Culture Initiative Group, and worked as international projects coordinator of santralistanbul, the museum complex that was developed by Istanbul Bilgi University.

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