As architecture historian my gaze looks often backward, at the past of a city not only to know and to analyze it, but also to see its reflections in the present time. Considering the urban and architectural facts, my interest goes to the continuous overlap of ages, cultures and populations that left their ‘scars’ in the earth, in the territory and in the materiality and texture of a city.
As I’m living in Istanbul since years, I cannot keep away from the beauty that comes from a city of about two thousand years history; the fascination for a capital city of three strong and huge empires, like the Roman, the Byzantine and the Ottoman; the limes and bridge between Asia and Europe; the myth of a city that – through the ages – changed many times her name, a name that evoke History: Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul.
The feeling to be in one of the most important cities of the world is strong and you can perceive it always around you; the geography is so particular and the historical development of the city is so unique that even as a simple tourist you get impressed by.
I’m involved in the contemporary Istanbul too and I have to face the beautiful contradictions of this megacity of 13 millions inhabitants, not considering just the to-day city, but trying to figure out possible scenarios for the future. It is not easy to describe Istanbul in few lines, because any attempt to do it forces myself to take a part instead of another, to swing between the contradicting feelings of happiness or anger that I have for her. Never tired to be here, naturally, but sometimes worried for the tomorrow city…
Maybe I should describe my vision of the city telling about postcards. How it should be a postcard of Istanbul from the future that does not really disappoint me and reflects the possible changes of the city? Can I make a list of things that I would like to see in this picture, in the next years Istanbul?
Certainly I would not include in such list those images in which the city is represented as it was once: a ‘pure Orientalist’ dream in colors, with charming sunsets on a skyline made of slender minarets and round domes, or a steaming boat floating in the Bosphorus stream.
I think the postcard should instead contains both the memory of the past – all the pasts of its history – and the contemporary/chaotic city, the frenetic and intense life that we have to get in everyday; where the fluidity of the moving and the people growth is fast as the waters that cross and divided the city into two parts. Perhaps a city made of strong lights and colors, many colors but also dirty and polluted, decayed and facing an irreversible attitude to reborn through its own ashes. Complexity seems to be the most properly word to describe Istanbul’s future, where social problems are not yet solved and the happiness of cancelling the past seems a positive approach towards the city itself.
That postcard should show the vertical districts that day by day are changing the cityscape in a dramatic way; the incredible panoramas from the top-roof of fancy restaurants and bars, spread in the new landmarks of the city or the shabby and decayed slams below surrounding them; the noisy traffic and the almost boring and silent life inside thousands of gated communities.
What I’d like to see is a multifaceted visionary postcard that includes in a glimpse all those things together, without exceptions and prejudices, considering Istanbul as one of the new center of consumptions in the world. Because the Istanbul of the future is already visible in these present days, in which the deregulated and unsustainable growth seems to be accepted by everyone – in a special manner by the young generations – as the unique answer for the future. This should be a good and realistic postcard of future Istanbul; a postcard that in a way should work as a warning and help us to re-build and re-compose the city, after having seen it built and de-fragmented in a too much ‘optimistic’ and ‘futuristic’ vision. This kind of future postcard could tell us that once the big and chaotic metropolis or metropolitan area that we can see depicted, it is – again and forever – called Istanbul.
BIO | Luca Orlandi is an architect and an architecture historian. He graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at University of Genoa (Italy) and then he obtained in 2005 a PhD from the Polytechnics of Turin (Italy), within the program of History and Critics of the Architectural and Environmental Heritage.
He lives in Istanbul where he teaches History of European Architecture and Contemporary Architecture as Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at Istanbul Technical University. He often participates in lectures, seminars and workshops in other Turkish universities like Marmara University and Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University and cooperates with some Italian Universities as well, like Genoa University, Polytechnics of Milan and Ferrara University.