May 21 2014

Hippodamus of Miletus’ Impact on Didim, Turkey Wanes

“If you think of roses, you are a rose garden
If you think of thorns, you are fuel for the furnace.” - Rumi

Didim‘s unplanned urbanization is considered to be a lack of aesthetic concern and is fiercely criticized. The new construction projects are not in harmony with the town’s cultural, natural and historical pattern, and to tell the truth, they are eye sores.

I think this beastly urbanization process is a crime, and all governing institutions who refuse or feel too weak to stand up against it are criminals. Former Minister of Culture and Tourism Ertugrul Gunay, who was in office from 2007 to 2013, stated in each and every visit to Didim, a destination for both cultural and recreational vacations, that the town had been subjected to a lack of urban planning.

It really doesn’t take an educated eye to observe this process. These new constructions are crammed, depriving one another of a beautiful spectacle and sunlight, and also needless to say, are extremely ugly.

Didim is a town of historical monuments, myths, and has an air of mystery to it, however, no matter how unsettled the residents and the tourists are, the grim urbanization still continues. As an inhabitant of this once beautiful town and as a citizen, I find local governments guilty: The contractors are in total coordination with the high-seated officials, and therefore all those who aspire to have a career in politics invest in construction. One hand seems to wash another.

Didim, Hotel, Sea, Turkey

Leaders of Didim, one of the newest touristic destinations in Turkey, haven’t learned a lesson from what happened in Kusadasi and Bodrum, popular holiday destinations, and moreover, they look up to these heavily populated and polluted regions. It hurts me to watch the destruction of the unique historical fabric of the town.

Talking of aesthetics and urban planning, it would be a shame were I not to mention a fellow townsman, Hippodamus of Miletus, who is considered to be the father of urban planning.

Miletus (Milet in Turkish), now within the borders of Didim, was an essential coastal town in 6th century BC. The town, under heavy attacks by the Persians, was eventually destroyed in war. In 479 BC, the Persians were finally defeated. The urban planning of Miletus and its neighboring cities, all in ruins after the defeat, was done by Hippodamus.

Didim, Ancient, Ruins

Aristotle provides prominent information about him. Streets of equal width intersected and between them rose square and rectangular buildings. This plan was called the grid. The grid plan has been applied to many cities all around the world for centuries.

Hippodamus was also a theorist: he planned the cities according to a population of 10,000 and created separate areas for workers, farmers and soldiers. Although this aspect of his urban planning was later criticized by Aristotle, Hippodamus’ contemporary method was largely built on orderliness and aesthetics. He attached utmost importance to beauty. According to him, the orderliness of the city, democracy and equality were dependent on one another. He thought the streets in particular were supposed to be very neat. His creativity was also unique: he distributed the regions of the city in many drawings.

I can’t help but appreciate the irony of this: Hippodamus of Miletus, a great man, theorist, physicist, urban planner, and yet an unplanned urbanization both belong to Didim. Our town seems to lose its unique aesthetics day by day. However, I’m resolved in my optimism that Didim still has a chance. Why not restore the buildings with beauty in mind? I believe our local government has the authority to plan and apply this. The elements that cause visual pollution can be eliminated or reorganized. The façades can be put in harmony. Academics of urban planning can be involved and consulted. The new buildings can be constructed in a way that highlights the unique beauty and legacy of the city. I hope that in the following years, local governments will lend an ear to the criticisms.

Do you have any suggestions for a city that is facing the risk of losing its ancient legacy?

Original article, originally published in Turkish, here.

Credits: Images by Sevilay Durul and Jens-Chr Strandos. Data linked to sources.

Imra Gundogdu

Born and raised in Istanbul, Imra earned her B.A. in Translation and Interpretation from Bilkent University in 2010. From her senior year on, she works as a literary translator, with an emphasis on children’s literature. She gained extensive knowledge on translation technologies by working for local leaders in Turkey and handled prominent clients such as Microsoft and Apple, satisfying her need to understand how software works. She also took on several universities and PhD candidates as clients to develop herself in social sciences and recently added Political Science to her specialization areas. Feeling concerned about the deforestation and depersonalization of her hometown, and in an effort to understand urbanization, she joined Global Site Plans as an intern. She likes gardening, wants to live in a eco-friendly community and her dream is to see Earth from the space.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 at 9:52 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Government/Politics, History/Preservation, Imra Gundogdu, Social/Demographics, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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