Taksim Urban Design Competition
Type, Format and Language
An international, two-stage urban design competition. The language of the competition is English.
Site and Scope
The site of the competition is located within the Beyoglu and Sisli districts of Istanbul. The scope of the competition is the preparation of the urban design project for Taksim within the site specified.
Organizer of the Competition
IMM Department of Cultural Assets and Conservation

Taksim Square

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.

  • Regarding the provision of accurate data with a participatory method during the preparation process:
    • The organization of surveys, workshops, symposia and panels during the consultation phase for ideas and views before the competition.
  • Regarding the display of an innovative and flexible approach that does not restrict creative solution proposals:
    • Flexible competition area boundaries that can be extended by the designers
    • Rather than a rigid program, a “framework program” defined by contestants
  • Regarding the structuring of an election system involving multiple partners during the assessment process and a participatory method:
    • Three finalist projects will be selected through the evaluation process of the jury.
    • Following the colloquium, these three design proposals will be presented to the public and exhibited at the temporary info-center which will be set in the square.
    • From the three proposals, the project to be implemented will be selected by a wider group along with the jury.
    • The project to be implemented will be determined via a transparent scoring system.

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:

  • Design approaches are expected to interpret the square and its surroundings with a viewpoint that embraces all sections of society.
  • Proposals are expected to highlight public space values and increase the quality of urban life, intensity and comfort.
  • Designs should provide a suitable infrastructure for temporary uses,
  • Proposals should be prepared with an approach sensitive to the historical background of the project area, its cultural heritage, urban values, collective memory and ecological concerns.
  • In terms of property relations, the areas subject to the competition involve many partners both from the public and private sectors. Proposals must be prepared in view of existing property relations.
  • Proposals are expected to develop contemporary solutions for the infrastructure problems in the project area. The complex infrastructure network of the square must be treated in a consistent and integrative way on every scale with the decisions to be presented. Proposals should involve lighting solutions that will enable night use and support security in the area, as well.
  • Design approach must respond to 24-hour use habits and consider needs like urban furniture and elements enabling climatic comfort.
  • Competitors should interpret the concepts of speed and movement, which have become essential parts of metropolitan life, in a manner that transforms these concepts into comfortable and effective spatial experiences.
  • Taksim Square is also an important urban transport network node, and this function alone indicates significant importance. From this viewpoint, proposals shall develop pedestrian and traffic solutions supported by public transport reinforcing connections with underground lines and stations.
  • Proposals must include art and artists to open the underground and other transport infrastructure to the use of the public by nurturing it with cultural and social activities, thus breathing life into art in and around Taksim Square.
  • Proposals must re-evaluate the potential of cultural focal points, public buildings, educational institutions and tourism structures within the impact zone of the project in a manner that enriches urban life.
  • The interaction zone and symbolic value of Taksim Square transcend the metropolitan scale: Thus, proposals must take into consideration the square’s role in public communication and its claim as a place for a democratic society’s freedom of expression.
  • The design should be handled as to integrate the competition area with the city as a whole. In this manner, it should be considered that the square is the intersection area where dense pedestrian roads meet with the urban green.
  • The landscaping approach should be built on usage of local and compatible plant species suitable for the identity of the area, and protection and improvement of existing vegetation. Therefore, it is encouraged to preserve the existing trees as much as possible (see the appendix 4.1. tree plantation surveys).
  • Lack of green spaces is one of the major problems in Istanbul. The design should consider gaining green public spaces as a public benefit and an urban planning requirement.
  • Gezi Park can be considered as a remnant of a green system, which was proposed by Henri Prost in 1937. In fact, the park within the implemented green system dramatically changed into fragmented green patches due to stresses caused by the urbanization process. Considering the park’s urban context, its size and physical relations with Taksim Square, new and fresh ideas are invited to enhance its performance to serve as a public area.
  • Designs must take into consideration issues of applicability, management, maintenance and sustainability in line with the principles of contemporary urbanism.

Stage 1 Calendar

Competition announcement
March 2, 2020
Deadline for queries regarding Stage 1
March 20, 2020
Answers regarding Stage 1
March 24, 2020
Deadline for submissions for Stage 1
July 12, 2020, 23:59, GMT +3
Jury session for Stage 1 begins
July 18, 2020

Stage 2 Calendar

Notifications to Stage 2
July 24, 2020
Deadline for queries regarding Stage 2
August 4, 2020, 23:59, GMT +3
Answers regarding Stage 2
August 8, 2020
Deadline for submissions for Stage 2
September 11, 2020, 23:59, GMT +3
Jury session for Stage 2 begins
September 17, 2020
Award ceremony and colloquium
September 26, 2020



Ekrem İmamoğlu

Mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM)

Mehmet Çakılcıoğlu

IMM Deputy Secretary General

Mahir Polat

IMM Dept. of Cultural Assets Conservation, Chairman

Tayfun Kahraman

IMM Dept. of Earthquake Risk Management and Urban Improvement, Chairman

Haydar Karabey


Oktay Özel

IMM Dept. of Cultural Assets Conservation, Directorate of Cultural Heritage Projects

Ömer Yılmaz

IPA Competitions Coordinator


Zeynep Ahunbay


İpek Akpınar Aksugür


Can Kubin

Urban Planner

Arzu Nuhoğlu

Landscape Architect

Kerem Piker

(Chairman of the Jury)

Manuel de Rivero


Rainer Schmidt

Landscape Architect


Arman Akdoğan


Tomris Akın Paşaoğlu


Melih Birik

Urban Planner

Meltem Erdem Kaya

Landscape Architect


Merve Ala


Başak Çelik

(IPA Competitons)

Kübra Elif Durgun

(IPA Competitons)


Sinan Çağlar


Salime Benan Kaya

Urban Planner
(IPA Competitons)

Şima Topaloğlu

Urban Planner

50,000 EUR
Equivalent Prize (3 in total)
10,000 EUR
Equivalent Mention (5 in total)
5,000 EUR
Each of the 20 projects that pass the first stage will be eligible to receive a prize payment of

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.

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