An Architectural Analysis of Mass Housing Administration’s (MHA) Urban Renewal Projects in Istanbul, Turkey
In a special advertorial sponsored by Turkey’s Mass Housing Administration (MHA) in one of the issues of the UN-HABITAT’s Urban World magazine, MHA states that transforming existing slums “makes up approximately 10 percent of our total housing development. […] Moreover, it should be emphasized that wherever we build housing, we take into consideration the great variation in climate and natural environment of our country, which enables us to make a contribution to the development of regional architecture.”
The statement above is enough to make an architecturally-aware citizen of Istanbul burst into laughter, as the housing projects undertook by the MHA are seen as generic type, multi-storied piles of concrete. This is not just me saying that; Sukru Kocoglu, the chairman of Syndicate of Turkish Construction Industrialists and Employers (INTES) pointed out in a recent interview that the MHA should “give up making cities look like one another by constructing buildings that are similarized in singular typology and are devoid of aesthetic appeal” because “the identities of cities can be maintained as long as the unique fabric of that city stays intact.”
This might not seem directly relevant to the discussion of urban renewal and relocation at first glance, however, if one was driving through the city in the east-west line, one would clearly witness this singular typology that is now spreading all over the peripheries of the city; disregarding the local architectural qualities. I believe a careful analysis of (1) the socio-cultural structure of the society, and (2) the design solutions that the people come up with according to their needs, is essential to ensure the success of an urban renewal/relocation project. As one of the most prominent urban planners in Turkey, Ilhan Tekeli points out, the development in a society results from socio-spatial processes, and it is important to see that it is not possible to have the final say in the spatial development by isolating it from this whole.
What threats would decoupling the spatial development from the social reality bring about, and how can these be avoided?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.