The concept of urban space lies at the center of debates over social, economic, cultural and historical change. Earlier disputes between architectural determinism, which perceives social relationships as a mere derivative of architectural space, and structuralism that perceives architectural space as a simple reflection of social relationships, have today evolved into a spectrum of approaches that may define space both as a determinant of social life, and a social product. There has been a reciprocal relationship between space and social dynamics in every period in history, and both the form and meaning of urban space are the outcome of an extensive, complex process. Beyond geographical location, this process is one of becoming a meaningful “place” accompanied by the knowledge and experience space accumulates over time.
The story of a space, its transformation, its demolition and rebuilding processes and the experiences not only shape but also determine its true meaning. What makes Taksim different, then, is also to be found in its unique historical layers. The socio-cultural histories of the square, and its extensions along the north- and south-axes, of Elmadağ, Beyoğlu and Tarlabaşı, of the Atatürk Cultural Centre and Taksim Gezi Park, are also the history of this multi-layered place. A rich oeuvre on this history exists, including literary works, films, memoirs, historical studies and visual documents. They bear traces not only of the square but also of the socio-cultural history of society in this country in the more general sense.
Taksim is one of the important intersections of the global and the local in Istanbul, and during every period, it has been the square, or “place for everyone and everything”. It has served as a platform for the public’s self-expression throughout all periods, and over time, it has become the city’s most important square, where different sections of society are able to feel at home. The square assumed a symbolic importance with the construction of the Republic Monument in 1928. Within the framework of the Henri Prost Plan dated 1937, four military barracks were allocated to the public, with three to be used as educational institutions and one as a museum; Topçu Barracks was demolished to be transformed into a park: Thus, the square acquired a distinct new meaning as it was now integrated with the Culture Valley that extends as far as Maçka and Beşiktaş. Following the demolition of the barracks and its stables in 1940, the square became a public space with its physical borders close to the present day.
Squares are the meeting points of different social groups living in the city and a means of expression for the city’s multi-layered culture. Since the 19th century, Taksim has been one of the few places where the city dweller can breathe, while on the other hand, due to its symbolic location and representative aspect, it has been perceived, during every period since the founding of the Republic, as a tool of signification where governments have displayed their power via the space. This not only shows how the square has been shaped in the hands of different governments during different periods but also presents clues to how Taksim, in the future, too, will be the stage for different demands. Today, a democratic urban “public sphere” and “public space” approach, and open and transparent social negotiation methods are to be used to engage with this space and other similar spaces. Only by taking into consideration the sensitivities of all social sections can their demands be heard. For this symbolic site, instead of merely putting forth proposals of architectural, urban and landscape design, a new approach bringing society together should be developed by exploring the system of relationships through open methods of negotiation and consensus.
In order to understand Taksim, it is necessary to be able to “read” the intentions, demands and implementations of social-historical actors behind the signs that have been produced, consumed, erased and reproduced at the square over the years. The main aim of this competition for Taksim is to produce the democratic urban public space experience that embraces the sensitivities of all sections of society.
The competition is organized by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality in accordance with the relevant regulations of the Public Procurement Law.
The Taksim Square Urban Design Competition also proposes a new approach in the practice of design and competitions in Turkey with its process structure. This approach is based on a participatory model effective both during the preparation and assessment stages of the competition. This competition also introduces several innovations for the design world in Turkey. Along with these innovations, the jury would like to emphasize the matters listed below.
The selected design will be revised according to the comments specified by the stakeholders during the implementation process of the project. In accordance with this revision, the development plan will also be renewed and supported by the necessary plan notes proposed by the designer.
Within the scope of preparatory work, documents compiled through meetings with volunteers, researchers and technical experts from different parts of the both community and the municipality will be presented to the competitors. This material is presented to form a fundamental viewpoint for contestants. The appraisal and interpretation of the different roles that the competition site and its immediate surroundings play in our social life will only be possible through a research process that goes beyond the presented documentation.
The following points are presented to the consideration of participants:
In addition to the EUR 5,000 prize for stage 1, projects that move to stage 2 will receive the following. Following the public announcement of the results, the prizes and mentions above will be paid to winners within 30 days at the latest, in compliance with the Article 29 of the Income Tax Law No. 193.