Istanbul: this is tomorrow

Having in mind the meaningful Istanbul paintings of Devrim Erbil, without trying to compete with the writer Tahsin Yücel who has drawn in his book Gökdelen (that means “sky-scraper”) – published in 2007 – the Istanbul of the year 2073, let’s imagine the close future, regarding the main current tendencies.
Three noisy bridges on the Bosporus, two tunnels under the Bosporus, more than 5 million vehicles obstructing the streets, more than 20 million inhabitants (the local authorities are nowadays very seriously envisaging 25 million people for the 2050-horizont), a huge sprawl-out towards both Trakya (Çatalca and Tekirdağ will be entirely welded to the budding metropolis) and Anatolian side, with grave environmental issues … Moreover, the skyline of the metropolis will be radically transformed, with an incredible number of high buildings, used as residences, offices or hotels. Always higher, like in Dubai the clear model.
All of the neighborhoods around Beyoğlu will be metamorphosed: Tarlabaşı, Hacı Hüsrev, Okmeydanı and Hasköy will look like Bomonti in 2012 – an old industrial area radically restructured to welcome high-income people. The all historical peninsula – between the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn – will be processed into a vast touristic scene where new erected “historical” buildings will represent the majority of the urban fabric. A brand fresh and simplistic history will be showed, non-withstanding the stunning richness of the past. We will be like in the 2012 released “1453-The Conquest” movie. Three sectors will be distinguished: the sector for the in number-decreasing European tourists, with their own “cultural activities” and restricted hotel areas, the sector for the Chinese tourists and the sector for the Muslim tourists.
With the Marmaray, the trans-Bosporus intra and inter-city railway system – finally opened in spite of many impeachments – , thousands of people are coming each hour inside the historical peninsula. The Golden Horn, at least crossed by the metropolitan – will be totally renewed and will concentrate and display many hotels and “political correct” entertainment centers. After the achievement of the so-called “urban transformation” policy, the law classes will be totally removed from the central and circa-central territories; except the necessary servants that requires the economy of distinction, tourism, identity, entertainment and pleasure ; the invisible and shameful low-incomes laborious people, going out of their work by the back gate, by night and never seeing the Bosporus.
I don’t believe neither in the big projects launched in 2011 like “Kanalistanbul” nor in the two new towns imagined close to the Black Sea (one of them is related to the Pharaonic “Kanalistanbul”).
But I see hundreds of thousands empty flats, dozens of empty commercial malls and sometimes unachieved abandoned tall buildings. I don’t also believe in the frequently evoked “Big One”: the earthquake threat that is only a way to justify other policies and calculations.
To sum up, I see an enormous metropolis, split into different parts which have no relations between them. The only common characters between these fragmented territories are the CCTV systems which are located everywhere, the police and private security companies members, and the cars, ubiquitous and stubborn. An enormous metropolis, where – thanks God – the Bosporus keeps its ability to save the past and the unity of this new Los-Angeles issued of a new Fritz Lang movie, but where fear has been the predominant fuel of urban policies.
To sum up, given the current processes in act, for the next years I couldn’t see other scenarios for Istanbul than becoming an archipelago, a fragmented fear-city (parçalanmış korkukent) divided in impervious territories and becoming a huge and unequal profitopolis crushed under the so-called “big projects” addressing all but the local populations.

BIO | Jean-François Pérouse graduated from the Ecole Normale Supérieure  in 1990 in the field of humanities (social geography). The same year, he began to learn Turkish  at the INALCO, and to work as an assistant at the University of Toulouse-II. From September of 1999 he lives and works in Istanbul. Since 2006 he teaches urban sociology in Galatasaray University. He’s got many articles published in academic periodicals on urban development of Istanbul and on Turkey, in French, Turkish, German and English. Currently he belongs to the EJTS (European Journal of Turkish Studies, http://www.ejts.org) review’s editorial board. Among the books he wrote and edited, we can mention La Turquie en Marche (La Martinière, 2004), Villes et Risques (Economica / anthropos, 2006), Constantinople, 1900.Voyage photographique de T. Wild (Kallimages, 2010)  and İstanbul’la Yüzleşme Denemeleri (İletişim, 2011).

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