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Istanbul: A City With Challenges Ahead

During this past spring break I traveled to Istanbul with a CBE colleague, two local developers and two Master of Real Estate graduate students to study how this trans-continental city is dealing with unprecedented urban growth.  This group was the 2012 Runstad Real Estate Research Fellows,  now in its second year, which is a program that selects a diverse group of academics, professionals and students to pursue research questions related to design, building, development and their environmental and economic concerns.  The group consisted of two professors, myself and Carrie Sturts Dossick (Construction Management); professionals Jason Twill (Senior Project Manager, Sustainability, Vulcan Inc.) and  Liz Dunn (Consulting Director of the Preservation Green Lab, Founder of Dunn and Hobbes, LLC) and students Natalie Gualy (M.Arch, MSRE 2012) and Ian Fishburn (MSRE, 2012).

Throughout the week, which was packed full with meetings and tours of the city, the Fellows heard about housing and gentrification, historic preservation and adaptive reuse policies, real estate and development practices, design, transportation developments and cultural and social challenges resulting from all of these things.  The days were full and the pace frantic as we absorbed information about how this unique city,  perched upon two continents and rife with cultural fractures, faces challenges in the upcoming decades as their population grows from the current 13 million to a possible 16 million.  Next fall, the Runstad Fellows will present the result of their year-long research agenda, including results from the weeks stay in Istanbul and how we might apply these and other lessons to the Seattle and Pacific Northwest region  in terms of our own urbanization and growth over the next few decades.  The following are some of my photos from the trip.

Learn more about the CBE Runstad Research Fellows program here:  http://www.reuw.washington.edu/currentstudents/fellowsprogram.php

-Kathryn Rogers Merlino

The Runstad Research Fellows: Ian, Liz, Natalie, Carrie, Kathryn and Jason at  Suleymaniye the Magnicifent’s Mosque.  Sultan Suleymaniye was a powerful Ottoman ruler during the time of Henry the VIII of England, Charles the V of the Holy Roman Empire, and Francis I of France.  His architect, Mirmar (Chief Architect) Sinan, built more major buildings- around 300 – than his contemporary, Michelangelo.

Domes over the Bosphorus.

Gates of Topkapi Palace, home of the Ottoman Rulers.

The backstreets of Istanbul.

Sculpture or floordrains?  BOTH!!!  Floordrains are fascinating jewels of early architecture…..

Gecekondus of Istanbul.

Originally a technical term, ‘gecekondu’  derived from everyday language to signify a specific housing and settlement typology of self-service urbanization that occurred during Turkey’s industrialization and rural migration in the period between 1945 and 1985. ‘Gece’ means ‘the night’ and ‘kondu’ means ‘landed’, hence gecekondu translates as ‘landed at night’. The term has evolved to encompass a variety of informal settlements and building typologies. Its usage denotes a bottom-up, spontaneous action, especially prevalent during the first wave of mass-migration, to provide mass housing under conditions in which conventional or government-initiated models of housing supply failed.  Orhan Esen helped us understand these concepts and was our guide in visiting many of these housing areas.

Light from Hagia Sophia.

First built as a Christian church by Justinian in the 6th century, the church was turned into a mosque during the Ottoman rule that begun in 1453.  It is now a museum.

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