Reviewed by Greg Clark
Cities have been the epicenter of the world order. Yet, only a few cities have achieved a prominent historical role as a genuine world city. Istanbul was one of those for hundreds of years. It was not only a political, military and trade center, but also a cultural and religious center. Throughout history, Istanbul has faced many natural and man-made disasters; wars, floods, fires, and earthquakes severly damaged the city many times.
Istanbul is at a crossroads in its history. More than 95% of the city is made of concrete building stock and most of the buildings are built on or near major fault lines. The Marmara Sea has two major fault lines on both the north and the south. The Marmara Region, which includes the providence of Istanbul, generates almost half of the revenue and production, with about the same percentage of both population and wealth.
Turkey is faced with an upcoming and predictable danger. Monuments of civilizations, (Mosques, Churches, Synagogues, Temples) and civil buildings (Palaces, Aqueducts, historic houses and mansions -Yali) could be destroyed by a future earthquake. Many experts are predicting an earthquake greater then 7.5 in magnitude sometime in the coming years.
UNESCO, some local NGO’s and highly respected academicians, including Cemal Kafadar, Kemal Karpat, Semavi Eyice are all fighting to prevent the unique city views from rising residential towers and the Calatrava style bridge on the Golden Horn, from destroying the historical Suleymaniye and killing the silhouette of Istanbul.
A team led by myself have signed agreements of cooperation and hired people to design a New City from scratch. The team worked with University of Michigan for three school terms led by Prof. Dr. Roy Strickland. The study designed two cities for Istanbul on the coastal line of the Black Sea. On the eve of the last parliamentary election, R. T. Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey, announced that these two cities will be built in the next term of his goverment.
Why new cities?
We realized that Istanbul has lost years because of the Marmara Earthquake in 1999, which killed tens of thousands of people, and cost tens of billions of dollars. This eartquake left many orphans, and disabled, handicaped individuals. Many people lost family members, friends, relatives and loved ones. Some were psychologically ill, economically poor and socially isolated. The Marmara Region, including Istanbul, is in danger with a population of 15 million habitants.
Why The Black Sea?
The sites for the two planned cities are located on the Black Sea coast of Istanbul Province. These sites were chosen because they have the strongest layers of land (4th degree), which is mainly stone and rock. More then most of the site belongs to governmental institutions. This project has the potential of creating hundreds of billions of dollars -if not trillions- for the Treasury of Country.
New Istanbul will have three cities located side by side. It will have an entire underground city built simultaneously for the first time in recent history. This will prevent the city having downtown uptown syndrome like New York NY. New Istanbul will meet most of its energy needs by using sunlight, wind and sea waves. It will be connected to the Old City by highways, subways, high speed trains, and a channel from the Black Sea to the Golden Horn. President of the UN Habitat, Dr Joan Clos, once stated that Istanbul needs at least 600 km of subways to be called a Metropol. This is very costly and almost impossible for the existing city.
The strategic plan for Istanbul includes relocating industrial facilities from Istanbul and Marmara Region to other regions. Istanbul will include three sections or zones; The Revitalization Zone (Historic Part of Istanbul including old villages); The Protection Zone (Forests, aqueducts, cultural and archeological sites); and The Regeneration Zone (Regeneration of rest of the city by reducing ratio).
A National Planning Strategy (Report) was administered by RPA Regional Planning Association led by Dr. Robert Yaro and contributed to by hundreds of Turkish and international experts, including Mete Sozen, Saskia Sassen, Albert Speer, Amir Pasic, A. Mete Saatçi, Robert Fishman and many more. According to this report, building the New Istanbul will serve as a model for us to plan and build similar cities in different regions of Turkey.
We are at a major crossroads. We need to build a New Istanbul and other City Centers in Turkey (Attraction Centers) and solve the demands of physical infrastructure, offices for financial institutions, hotels, convention centers, shops, universities, research centers, Olympic Facilities, cultural and recreational sites. Only then can we claim that Istanbul will be the center of the World again. A city that lays on two continents and located 3 hours by air from major European and Eastern Centers, like London, Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Moscow, and Dubai and about the equal distance to New York to the west and Tokyo to the east.
A prominent Turkish architect and philosopher Turgut Cansever was fighting hard to solve these problems and save the city and it’s citizens until the day he passed away. Now we have Mete Sozen, also called the father of earthquake, who has taken over the battle and is fighting diligently for the bright future of Istanbul.
Image: Félix Polesello