Obstacles such as poor public planning and red tape are the challenges domestic and international architects face in Turkey.

Hasan Çalışlar
Erginoğlu & Çalışlar Architects
Ann-Marie Galmstrup
Associate Partner
Henning Larsen Architects

How is Istanbul's rich architectural history being preserved in a time of widespread construction projects?

HASAN ÇALIŞLAR Istanbul has a lot of architectural richness, but unfortunately it is not well preserved. In almost every neighborhood we can find ruined buildings. With the Kasımpaşa (TuzAmbarı) project, we wanted to show people that even in a forgotten part of the city, quality restoration can be done. This can help toward the gentrification of the whole area. When I say “gentrification" I mean bettering the physical conditions of the area, but leaving the social situation and environment unaffected. This is what we have attempted to do in the Kasımpaşa project, and why it was awarded and recognized at the World Architecture Awards.

ANN-MARIE GALMSTRUP We have frequently been asked about low-rise mixtures, such as a maximum of six to eight stories. This new and interesting trend could be an excellent new development in the market. The openness to sustainability has perhaps not reached the level seen in Northern Europe, but that time will come. Prototypes using green methodology and the mixed-use campus style are emerging, both in residential and commercial spaces. Designers have started to focus increasingly on public spaces and landscaping, which is also good for the city of Istanbul. I hope that over time there will be a greater focus on materials because there is a history of high-quality local source materials that stand the test of time.

How do you feel about public planning and government involvement in the construction process?

The government has created a new ministry, which is the Environment and Urbanism Ministry, but the main occupation of this is the Housing and Development Administration (TOKİ). It uses lands that belong to the state and shares them with developers. TOKİ chooses good developers who can turn a profit, and then this profit is reinvested into public housing. The system is not problematic, and financially it looks smart and pragmatic. However, architecture is missing from the mix. If you look at the examples of TOKİ developments in Ankara, it really is a mess. Creating more profit by increasing density and not prioritizing planning is good for both the developers and the government, so architectural concerns are generally forgotten. The same system could be implemented with more of a focus on social design, but, unfortunately, we missed that train. Now, development on these projects is moving at an incredible pace. With 5% more energy and concentration spent on these projects, we could have a good city.

AMG From a design architect firm's viewpoint, things here happen very fast, which requires you to adapt very quickly. There is very little time for the design phase when compared with the way projects evolve in, say, Europe. On the other hand, this is an energetic market, full of major possibilities, and requires you to maintain focus. This has in fact been one of the greatest challenges. What's more, many are keen to become players, which while good in theory, if rushed, can lead to a compromise on quality. There are many regulations to navigate one by one. This is time consuming, and hence frustrating; however, I do not think this differs greatly from other countries. We have offices in many countries and you always need to be a step ahead to be ready for the next phase.