Taksim, in keeping with the functions of the public square (Istanbul)

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Federative area of the modern Istanbul, Taksim square has a central play in the operating, organisation and history of the metropolis.

As a public square, many festivities, manifestations and urban gatherings take place there. Appealed by the inhabitants, many of them enjoy walking around there, drinking tea and meeting up.

Frequented by locals, the square is also visited by tourists who like having a rest nearby the Cumhuriyet Anıtı (monument of the Republic ) after a long walk through Istiklal avenue, a crowded pedestrian street totally dedicated to restaurants and shopping.

Not only recrational, the square is also a transportation hub. A large traffic runs up, mostly cars and buses operating through the city and having their terminus at Taksim. The metro line M2 stops at Taksim square. The area is reachable by tram and the Tünel, cable-car leaving from Karaköy district, boarding point for the ferries cruising between the asian and european banks.

However Taksim square is firstofall an urban space full of History. Symbolised by the monument refering to the heros of the Independence, it used to be a strategic water supply crossing for the metropolis. Symbol of the turkish left claims during the 70s, it hosted a barrack of the Ottoman army at the beginning of the XXth century.

Launched in november 2012 by the Great Municipality of Istanbul, mostly remained under control of the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (former Mayor of Istanbul), the planning program of the Taksim square is a large project aiming at making the square a fully pedestrian area and implementing an underground traffic.

At first sight, the project seems to be attractive, focusing on people and their uses. Nevertheless, the implementation of that project threatens the Gezi park existence.

The parc is one of the rare urban cooling islands and resting places in the city center of Istanbul. Inhabitants like coming in order to escape from the surrounding city frenzy.

The Ottoman barrack, previously destroyed and replaced by the Gezi park, was returned in the planning program of the Taksim square to become as mall coming with restaurants and many cultural and hotel infrastructures.

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Cagdas Onder campaigned within the Taksim solidarity network : “The government has, since the early 2000s, started a city-planning program based on concrete use that doesn’t care about either human or environmental aspects of the city.”

That project is at the root of violent confrontations between the population and the police occured in Istanbul, then in the whole Turkey, last may. People brought a wave of revolt against the development policy led by the government and the lack of transparency and consultation in the implementation of the city-planning projects.

Intending to build Taksim square as a showcase of modern Istanbul, the government is deeply changing functions and symbols linked to its area.

Akif Burak Atlar, secretary of the chamber of the urban planners : »Whenever we have to claim, shout, celebrate, it always happens here. It’s the manifestation place. But, for Erdogan, it’s also a space where an ideology, he disagrees with, is claimed. This festal and alive district represents all what the government goes against.”

Whereas the government has launched Istanbul into a spiral of economic development, they’d seem to forget about urban complexity. We shall remember that public square is firstly dedicated to inhabitant’s uses but it also has to fit with the modern needs of organisation of the metropolis. Consequently, urban consensus appears as the best alternative both to preserve the public square’s identity and adapt it with the urban trends of the XXIst century.

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