1- Turgut Cansever while examining the model of a project

My family emigrated from Asia 300 or 350 years ago and settled around Edirne. They later moved to Istanbul and founded the Turabi Baba Lodge in Kasımpaşa. This was a Qadiriyya lodge. We know that the founder, Mehmed Turabi Efendi, passed away in 1812. The lodge became more active in the nineteenth century and continued so until lodges and zawiyas were closed down. The last sheikh was my grandfather, Sheikh Ali Efendi. Another famous family name was Pürtelaş Hasan Efendi, after whom today’s Pürtelaş Street was named. He was a bookbinder and was sent to Baghdad to bind books in a library. He was told to go on Hajj while he was there but he refused. He returned to Istanbul and from there went on foot to Hajj twice. Yahya Galip Bey, who was the last generation and the son of my father’s great-uncle, adopted the surname Kargı in 1934 and was the last sheikh of the Ummi Sinan Lodge in Eyüp. He also served as the governor of Kırşehir and passed away in 1924. Unfortunately, he was the person who submitted a proposal to close the lodges. This is why my father was angry with him until he died.

My grandfather, who was a sheikh and a senior constable at the Bâbıâli (Sublime Porte), always wanted his son to become an officer as well. However, my father said he wanted to be a doctor and attended the Haydarpaşa Faculty of Medicine. He lived there without leaving the facility for five years until he graduated. Meanwhile, he developed close relationships with his medical professors. You know that the Turkish Centers were established by seven students from the Faculty of Medicine and my father was probably one of them. However, they swore not to disclose who they were. In other words, nobody knows who these seven people are except for my father. They did not have any affiliations with the Party of Union and Progress. One group argued for the development of the villages, while the other group argued that development should start in the cities during the Turkish Centers’ first term. After my father graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, he was sent as Head Physician to the Hilal-i Ahmer (Red Crescent) Hospital at the Sinai battle front. Then he went to Gaza and from there to Jerusalem. Halide Edip Hanım, who was in Jerusalem at the time introduced him to my mother Hatice Saime Hanım. They got married later in İstanbul. From Jerusalem, my father was then appointed Head Physician of Haydarpaşa Hospital.

My maternal grandfather, Mehmed Efendi, was a professor in Plovdiv. He would not touch his salary at all and gave all his earnings to his wife. This way, his wife saved a large amount of money. He was one of the last people to leave Plovdiv during the Bulgarian occupation. He resisted until he was no longer able to. When they came to İstanbul, they had a lot of savings that my grandfather was unaware of. My grandmother bought two houses without informing him. They lived in one of them and rented the other. When my grandfather learned of this, he became angry saying “How can you feed my children with rent money?” and sold the house. My mother, Hatice Saime Hanım, was one of the first eight or nine graduates of the teachers’ school for girls or Darülmuallimat where Nakiye and Halide Edip worked as teachers. After she graduated, she went to teach at a girls’ school in Jerusalem and later, she was transferred to Beirut.

A Mansion in Beyazıt

We left Bursa and came to İstanbul in 1933. I attended Galatasaray as a day student. We lived in a mansion across from the Military School of Medicine, that is opposite the Fuad Paşa Mansion in Beyazıt. It was an old mansion to the north of Beyazıt Madrasa. My room was in the attic. You could see the whole of Marmara from there. Unfortunately, it was not possible to see the Süleymaniye Mosque as the Military Medicine building blocked the view to the north. However, I could see Beyazıt Square. In one of the paintings I made from my room, a gorgeous sycamore tree could be seen with its three big branches at the point where the square met the road. It was a large painting. I don’t know who has that painting today. I loved painting. I would paint every Saturday and Sunday and walk from one street to the other in Istanbul with my painting kit. I opened my first exhibition when I was fifteen or sixteen, which was comprised of scenes of Istanbul. My second exhibition opened one year after that. Anyway, Beyazıt was a place that I observed almost everyday from above. I would also pass through Beyazıt twice a day as I took the tram to school. Sometimes we would pass through the square and go to the Grand Bazaar while wandering around. In short, Beyazıt Square was a part of our daily lives.

2- A scene from briefing Prime Minister İsmet İnönü by the authorities when he  visited Istanbul during the days of Beyazıt Square pedestrianization project. The   fifth person from the left is Turgut Cansever who was the architect of the project.

My friends would visit me and we would talk and dream for hours in my room in the attic. Sometimes, we would go out and continue talking as we walked in Beyazıt Square and sat in coffeehouses. Beyazıt was a popular meeting point. Also, the presence of the Used Book Bazaar contributed greatly to the ambience of Beyazıt. The narrow street of the Used Books Bazaar was a center of attraction. Of course, under the chestnut tree... It was a meeting point for people who wanted to talk, discuss an issue and meet with their friends. In other words, Beyazıt was the real cultural center of İstanbul.

My history teacher at Galatasaray was Cavit Baysun who encouraged my interest in history. We had excellent French teachers. It is such an opportunity and pleasure to listen to French literature and literary history from French teachers... Muvaffak Benderli, who also served as president of the Bar, taught divani literature. Benderli taught us the beauty of this literature. I started taking painting classes from Sami Boyar in 1935. His wife was the daughter of Halide Edip’s aunt. Thus, I started painting in a post-impressionist way. I even opened two exhibitions in Eminönü Community Center when I was around 16 or 17. An art teacher started working at Galatasaray High School when I was in the 8th grade. His name was Ali Karsan. There was a workshop for students who were talented at painting. I continued working in that workshop. Cihat Burak and Avni Arbaş are my friends from those days. Then, another arts teacher came, Halil Dikmen. After he looked at everyone’s paintings, he called me. He said, “None of what you have done are original paintings. I will teach you if you want but you will have to forget everything you have learned so far.” I could not sleep for three days. I approached him again after thinking carefully about it and I told him that I wanted to learn from him. My father was wealthy so I could buy any book that I wanted. I bought all the new books about the arts from Haset. One day I met Zeki Faik İzer from D Group when he was with Halil Dikmen Bey. I had bought a book about Michelangelo and Zeki Faik said he had seen the book two days before but could not afford to buy it. I started practising the reed flute after Halil Dikmen.

3- Turgut Cansever in his office

I have already mentioned my room in the attic of our house in Beyazıt. I used to meet my friends Turan Güneş, İlhan Usmanbaş, Turhan Feyzioğlu and Emin Ülgener in my room and talk about the professions we would have liked to follow. Turan Güneş wanted to study theology but at that time there was no institution that offered theological education. My father said “I will take you to Elmalılı Hamdi Efendi” and I also went with them. The love of divani literature taught to me by Benderli sparked my interest in Persian. Elmalılı welcomed us warmly in his house in Fatih and we were seated across from him. He asked what we wanted. When Turan Güneş told him that he wanted to study theology, he said “You have to do this by yourself” and recommended that he learn Arabic. He said that he could recommend some qualified people for this task and that he could help him as well. Then he turned to me. I had read the first two volumes of Elmalılı’s interpretation of the Religion of Truth, Language of the Quran in the 10th grade and admired the profound knowledge of this master. That’s why I was sitting there with the greatest of respect for him. I said, “I want to learn Persian but I do not know if I can.” His eyes twinkled as he said, “How can you question whether you can or cannnot?” “I read Napoleon in German. When I learned that he had decided to learn Russian forty days before he went on the expedition to Russia and he started speaking it in forty days, I said I could do it, too. I studied French for forty days and started reading Bergson.” The wonderful will of these old men is unbelievable.

4- Turgut Cansever while getting his award from Ağa Han

The Academy and Sedat Hakkı Eldem

I graduated from Galatasaray High School in 1940. I started studying at the Department of Architecture of the Academy of Fine Arts. Actually, my whole world was painting and music. I was interested in philosophy and I was reading authors such as Nietzsche. I attended the Department of Architecture at the Academy upon the insistence of my father. Although I was aware of the beauty of the classes of Sedat Bey in my freshman and sophomore years, I could not fully commit to the poetry. At the end of my sophomore year in May, he summarized the information about the structure of buildings that he had been teaching for two years in half an hour. He explained the building process so well, from the grading of the land where the foundation would be laid to putting the ridge tile on the roof, that I decided that day to become an architect. I can never forget Sedat Hakkı Bey’s clarity when explaining the structure of buildings’ class. Solving geometrical problems was my greatest pleasure during the last two years of high school. Finding the most elegant solutions became a competition among friends. Making a functional building arrangement similar to geometrical problems was assigned to students in the first year at the Academy. That was the only thing I enjoyed. I was soon able to easily solve these problems. Sedat Hakkı Bey had each student draw surveying projects of some historical building in the National Architectural Seminar. He certainly had someone draw this building in previous years as well. He would check them by superimposing them on top of each other and then look for mistakes. He was a strict and feared man. I drew a survey of Baba Haydar Lodge. We wrote the first texts of Türk Bahçeleri (Turkish Gardens) and Köşkler ve Bahçeler (Mansions and Gardens) together between 1946-1949. It was a great education for me. I acquired the skill and discipline of writing. Professor Kessler would write about the issue of gecekondu (shanty towns) in Gece Postası (The Night Post) and Son Saat (The Last Hour) in the same years, in other words, in 1943 and 1944. He would explain this subject at conferences every chance he got. He became a Turkish citizen. There were around one thousand five hundred shanties in Istanbul then. He would say, “If the problems of these people are not solved and squatting is not prevented, this country will experience an awful crisis!” So he foresaw today. I would read his articles and listen to his conferences.

5- Oil painting Istanbul by Turgut Cansever

Halil Dikmen, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, and Asaf Halet Çelebi

Necip Fazıl was my teacher in the first year at the Academy. I got to know Tanpınar along with with Halil Dikmen. It was after the fire in the Academy. Halil Dikmen was using a room in the police station in the north of the Academy to practice the reed flute. One day, Tanpınar came and listened to the flute for a while. He then said excitedly “Halil, you do not know how important what you are doing right now is. You are reconstructing Turkey with this.” As a matter of fact, he did. Erguner and Niyazi Sayın were trained. This big musical strain had the chance to improve again thanks to him. I have not played the reed flute for 30 years. It was in 1942 when Halil Bey said “They want me to play the reed flute on the radio. I will go and play with you.” We were in two live broadcasts together. Neyzen Emin Dede said, “Halil, bring that kid to me, he has talent!” We went there. He would not accept anybody, but I had the chance to listen to him three times. Neyzen Emin Dede, Ahmet Avni Konuk and Basbariton Sadık Bey, these three were inseparable.

6- Oil painting Sublime Porte and Alay Mansion by Turgut Cansever

One day I was practising the yegah1 saz2 semai of Aziz Dede with Halil Bey. Zeki Faik Izer had returned from the military at that time. He came in. He heard the semai, sat down and stopped us. “Halil”, he said, “Do you know? I was lying down in a tent in Erzurum one day. There was an awful blizzard. I could not sleep till morning and I listened to this semai of Aziz Dede until morning during a blizzard and storm!” I met Asaf Halet Çelebi when I was with Halil Bey as well. One winter’s day we were playing the ferahfeza3 prelude of Ismail Dede. We could see Üsküdar covered in white. Asaf Halet appeared suddenly and read us the poem called “Sema-ı Mevlânâ”. I was very impressed. We moved to Çengelköy in 1941 and lived in the İbrahim Efendi Mansion there. Samiha Ayverdi describes this mansion in detail in her book titled the Mansion of İbrahim Efendi book. I became friends with Asaf Halet on our trips to the European side of Istanbul on the ferry from Çengelköy. Around 1944 I saw him standing on a chair giving a political speech to ten to fifteen people near Beyazıt direction when the Faculty of Letters was being built. I have never forgotten the fact that he was prosecuted for that speech. The second time I saw him, he was addressing a crowd of twenty-five to thirty people. It was during his brightest years when he published He.

The Ottoman Urban Viewpoint

After the Tanzimat Reform Era, particularly in the 1850s and 1860s, as a result of the depletion of resources belonging to religious foundations due to the changes in urban land law and the impoverishment of the government, the foundation lands were unprotected and locations around the monuments were occupied. However, the truth is that it is a feature that we can see in the approach of the whole of the Ottoman state administration... The city was formed around focal points. These focal points had unchangeable values. In other words, religion was represented there. Faith, culture, financial life and social life formed an integrity which is a principal followed throughout the whole of human history. In other words, this was a reflection of the belief in unification in terms of Islam. The principle of this arragement was showing that events in the financial, social, and cultural plans were an inseparable entirety, and the belief system which played a determining role was at their center. The theses of Turkish scholars regarding the fact that this holisticness in Ottoman times was a continuation of the holistic viewpoint of Helenistic cities is incorrect. Mecca was a commercial area and the Ka’ba was an area of worship, which was integrated into the city and therefore, into commercial life. The claim that this had stemmed from the Helenistic tradition is false. The Ottomans organised İstanbul not from the broken and exhausted Byzantine civilization but from their own cultural heritage in a period when a proliferation of Islamic cities were being built.

7a- Of course Prime Minister Adnan Menderes had no intention to destroy the historical identity of Istanbul. On the contrary, he wanted to develop this magnificent city and raise it up which he thought to have been neglected during the years of one party ruling. What he did was to apply the plans of H. Prost that had been accepted during the years of one party ruling and he completed the works that had begun by Lütfi Kırdar, the former Mayor and governor of Istanbul. One of the reasons of Adnan Menderes’s boldness was that he had been flattered by the architects and city developers of the time saying that he had passed them in public improvements. Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and President Celal Bayar while examining a city development plan. (<em>İstanbul’un Kitabı</em>)

7b- Prime Minister Adnan Menderes while inspecting the works on site (<em>İstanbul’un Kitabı</em>)

Some people claim that the Turkic people came to İstanbul and destroyed and polluted it because they were Muslims. Maybe they do not dare to write this but I have experienced it many times. Others claim that villagers came here and destroyed the city. None of them refer to the destruction around the monuments during the era of the Tanzimat Reforms. The roof of the Ministry of Justice that was built in front of Hagia Sophia was made higher and the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia was covered almost up to the dome. The windows of the houses around Süleymaniye were made smaller than the average window size of the city in order to make Süleymaniye look bigger. In order to make the Üsküdar Mihrimah Sultan Mosque look bigger, the window dimensions of the grand vizier mansions behind the mosque were seventy-five centimeters instead of ninety centimeters. The height of the ceilings of the houses around the Edirne Selimiye Mosque, some of which were built by Sinan, were calculated at two point twenty-two to thirty centimeters in order to complete the silhouette of Edirne that changed with the construction of the Selimiye Mosque to also glorify it. Later, the dimensions of detached houses were made smaller so that Selimiye would look relatively bigger.

8- Aksaray Square during the works of development of the period of Democrat Party ruling (İstanbul’un Kitabı)

I realized that comparable size was the real scale; in addition, the size based on measuring by the meter did not mean anything in the Ottoman world. People who built their houses around the focal points of an Ottoman city made their measurements smaller, which not only glorified these monuments but also the people. Western Europeans assumed that Turkish people were huge and very strong during the operation while planning Beyazıt Square with a group of friends and this was probably a feeling or illusion due to relative measurements of Ottoman circles. Regardless, this was something that glorified humans. We do not know whether the Byzantines used such things or not. The Helenistic world did not utilize this either. In short, the Ottoman world was based on relative measurements. Ottoman cities, particularly İstanbul, enabled an incomparable analysis in the history of humanity. I would like to mention one of them: This was about the integrity of the rooms in a house. The house was organised by the total of the rooms next to each other. Each room was a unit. Rooms were tectonic and single entities on two sides of one space which was laid out as two rooms and one interval in Central Anatolia. This structure determined the shape and design of the roof in the architecture of the houses in Bursa and Istanbul after the fifteenth century. When we look at the city from above, it is possible to understand the structures of the houses and mosques. Similarly, this also enabled us to understand how many rooms the houses had. This is a result of the methodology of topological analysis of architecture from top to bottom. We know that a vaulted mosque was formed with a thought process from the top to bottom, from pieces that support the dome to lower carrier systems and walls resting on the floor.

There were similar arrangements for houses as well, but houses were placed in ways that were asymmetrical and different drifts on a topography that differed at the same time. This was as a result of the historical process or to topographical conditions. One one hand, the topological internal structures of these houses placed on roads and their transcendental analysis and on the other hand, the tendency due to climate factors or privacy, social relations or the desire to see a big monument or a piece of nature that emerged from their tendencies as a result of the reasons regarding the formation of these houses were compared. These houses were, in a sense, the models that would show how to analyze the differences between the directions of these roads, in other words, the differences in the directions based on the city and the land and the differences between the transcendental, the local topography, the objective universe. The differentiation of the road direction and the course above were unique during the Middle Ages and is not found in other cultures. This was the analysis of the constant conflict in Western philosophy between the material entity and spiritual entity in the field of architecture. It provided a richness of style in Turkish cities and civilian architecture that was unprecedented in the history of humanity

9- Millet Avenue which was opened during the ruling of Democrat Party. After starting at Topkapı, it passes through Şehremini, Çapa, Taşkasap and reaches Aksaray Square and from there connects to Vatan Avenue. During the construction of this avenue many historical monuments along with districts were disappeared. (<em>İstanbul’un Kitabı</em>)

The Ottomans knew that monumentality could not be achieved through the measurement of sizes. I mentioned this before. People who examined the source of the monumentality referred Ottoman architects to another basic concept apart from monumentality, in other words, like a monument. The feeling of awe. This feeling encompases respect and a kind of fear before the size of the object encountered. The analysis usually took place on a piece of tile of ten to fifteen centimeters. You feel the emotions in front of a fifteen centimeter broken tile from the eighteenth century that you would feel before a monument. The main priority of this sufistic awe was incorporating fear into the structure. The solemnity of expression which was inevitably experienced constituted the main expression of physical features and style. We know the differences in the viewpoints of Sinan and his master builder Mehmed Agha. The idea of grace became prominent instead of feelings of solemnity and awe as experienced in the Blue Mosque. This shows that the approach of grace and material beauty became prominent rather than that of a generation that in a sense, prioritized the mission of jihad. Sinan’s successors tried to put forward the plans of the Sinan school in the New Mosque nearly one century later. After the construction of the Sultanahmet Fountain right after the New Mosque, architects and structure cratfsmen in İstanbul held demonstrations at the palace for two to three days. They said the sultan did not have the right to expose the people of Istanbul to his bad taste. Nearly 60 years later, the people of İstanbul revolted again when Selim III had Üsküdar (Kavak) Palace, which was built by Sinan on the orders of Sultan Süleyman I, demolished and decided to have the Selimiye Barracks built in its place.

Going to the Land of the Infidels

They began building large palaces fifty to sixty years later and the Topkapı Palace was abandoned. When considering the considerable contribution that Selim III made to Turkish music, while the basic values of this music are obvious, the construction of the Selimiye Barracks that separated these basic values in terms of measurement is a terrible internal contradiction. Selim III may have done this by hardening his heart and accepting the internal contradiction. This is why the attitude of Sultan Abdlaziz was in this sense self-explanatory. He sacrificed his palace to enable the railroad to pass through, which he considered to be a sign of development for his country. Actually, the distortion in measurement dated back to earlier times. When Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha’s army laid siege to Vienna for the second time, it was bigger than the enemy army. Until then, Ottoman armies were almost half the size of the opposing forces. It was a mentality that assumes that strenghth depends on numbers, in other words, the distortion of measurement started at that time.

10a- Photographs taken during the works of expansion of Ordu Avenue which connects Beyazıt to Aksaray. In order to broaden the Avenue, parts of the magnificent works of Simkeşhane and Süleyman Paşa Han were destroyed and the remaining pieces of a victory arch from the period of Roman Empire was found.

It is a statement of fact that the measurements were distorted in later society. The opposition to Ahmet III’s Fountain and the Selimiye Barracks is a case in point. Sufism, which was the source of these measurements was taught in lodges until the period of the Republic. Ahmet Avni Konuk Bey was one of the most important musicians of that era. He was a genius and a person who knew and expounded Fusus more profoundly than most others. Although society retained the correct measurements, the distortion of measurement, and the mistaken belief that big sizes would solve everything, was prevalent among the ruling class. Several other fallacies can be observed during the period of the Tanzimat Reforms. Constructions were made with temporary construction materials such as wood and lime. The wood in the framework represented daily life, as opposed to constant, permanent values, and were receptive to change, that life is a dynamic process and the unchanging was only a divine reality. It is destiny for the images of people circumambulating around the constant spirituality of the Ka’ba to constrantly change. Likewise, it is destiny that houses constructed according to daily life around big focal points formed in Istanbul are shaped every day.


Since every generation reconstructs the city for themselves, thanks to constant change, they grow up acquiring a high level of environmental awareness and responsibility. No generation takes this privilige away from the successive generations. However, both Napoleon I and Napoleon III obliged successive generations to live in an environment that they built/created in Paris and closed the doors for the contribution of future generations to the city. Apart from Ottoman cities, the construction of Japanese sanctuaries can be mentioned as strict systematics in the history of humanity. These sanctuaries are very small structures and have valuable religious items in them. They are comprised of two parcels of land. The building is constructed on one of these parcels within a forest, or in a woodland and the other one is left empty. Twenty years later, while the first structure stays unchanged, an identical building is built on the other parcel of land. Valueable items are taken in a ceremony from the first building and placed into the new building and the first building is set on fire. This way, every generation is able to practice of the most advanced techniques and technical ratios. Thus, the transfer of this awareness and technique from generation to generation are guaranteed. While new generations were provided with this opportunity on one hand, continuity and the formation of the process took place using the available materials in the standard Ottoman system. This is an unprecedented practice. The attitudes of Turkish scholars who saw and admired the wide boulevards of Paris and said “I went to the land of the infidels, I saw developed areas/ I only saw ruins when I went to the lands of Islam,” prevented them from considering these issues.

Change in our Understanding of the City

The urban view in progress gave way to a static urban view after the Tanzimat. The construction of mansions in which Ancient Greek stone sanctuaries were copied, lead to the complete destruction of the scale arrangement of the city. This was the result of Ziya Pasha’s foolish mistake. Structures that looked like wild animals attacking people appeared rather than the city being entirely comprised of architectural elements that were full of emotions of solemnity, monumentality and awe but were humble and timid at the same time and did not hesitate to express their existence. Actually, one of the most striking examples was the incident that occured in Beyazıt Square. The direction of the Ministry of War was directed towards the qibla by 45 degrees. A primitive road that had trees on both sides led out from the Ministry. The following expresses the complete rejection of Istanbul’s virtue: the destruction of the square to place the image of a boulevard, positioning Reşid Pasha’s Tomb in the direction of the qibla by 45 degrees instead of Beyazıt Square, which was a living quarter for civilians in its entirety from the early nineteenth century until 1870s and 1880s, a square that was open in every direction and decorated by Beyazıt Mosque and the walls of the Old Palace inside and houses and big trees as tectonics in its surroundings

In spite of everything, the Tanzimat could not completely destroy Istanbul. The real destruction was when the refugees from the Balkan War came to Istanbul en masse. The population of İstanbul was approximately 550,000 until 1840. When the Turkish-English Treaty of Commerce made the export of products impossible throughout the Ottoman world and obligated the import of products from abroad, Istanbul suddenly grew as a port city, and in 1870, over a period of thirty years, its population reached 870,000. This situation gave rise to concerns that İstanbul could not cope with the incoming population. However, İstanbul’s society was strong enough that this incoming population was accepted on the assumtion that the city could assimilate the newcomers. However, Istanbul experienced a big shock. Istanbul, which had been comprised of four separate cities, which were Dersaadet, Eyüp, Galata and Üsküdar became a thing of the past during the Tanzimat Era. Firstly, two sides were connected by the Unkapanı Bridge. Since this bridge was used for car traffic, roads that the cars could use in the historical peninsula were constructed. A road was built by cutting through the Köprülü Social Complexes, a madrasa, a Turkish bath and another madrasa between Beyazıt and Cemberlitaş and this road continued to the palace. The idea of taking sultans to the Süleymaniye Mosque by car was proposed. Sultan Süleyman I would go to Süleymaniye either on foot or by horse to pray. Sultans went to the mosque a separate way from the people, like French emperors,however, the route that Sultan Süleyman I would take was one with the city. New roads were built through which the sultan’s carriage could pass. The increase in the population of the city caused an increase in financial activities as well. In a sense, facilities such as the shipyard in the Haliç (The Golden Horn) constituted the first steps towards the industrialization of the Haliç. On the other hand, Sultan Abdülaziz brought the railroad to Sirkeci sacrificing his palace and his private garden which encouraged the development of industry from there to the Haliç. Facilities such as slaughter houses emerged later as a result of these developments.

11- Digging works during Beyazıt Square development efforts. By dismantling the tramway Ordu Avenue was prepared to be asphalted.

I would like to share a memory with you. I was a guest at my aunt’s house in 1930. I was studying as a boarder at Galatasaray School then. We went down to Unkapanı walking through Saraçhanebaşı on a spring holiday (Hıdırellez). Today’s Ataturk Boulevard had not yet been opened. We took a boat to Kağıthane. People were fishing nearly as far as Sütlüce. After Sütlüce, people were still fishing until Kağıthane. We touched the water with our hands from the boat, which was not permitted in Sütlüce.There were not any living organisms even germs in the slaughter house or in the waters fifty meters away from the shoreline twenty years ago in 1974. Life ended in those areas due to chemical contamination. Unbelievable...

City Plans

There were buildings and city plans which the Tanzimat government had foreign arhictects prepare. Some of the plans prepared for Beyazıt Square proposed to continue in the opposite direction of the Ministry of War and go down to the shoreline. Abdülhamid II had someone prepare a bridge project that connected Sarayburnu with the other side. Şirket-i Hayriye, which was a very important urban service project, proposed to connect several points of the city to each other. Sirkeci was considered to be the central point of this connection as it was the area to which the railroad extended. In a sense, İstanbul, which was a cultural city where quality art pieces were produced, turned into a foreign trade center. Think about it... İstanbul, a city where the number of books written was more than the total of the books written in large European cities when printing houses were established, in other words, the city that produced the most books in the world... Clerks, illuminators, linguists.. İstanbul suddenly changed identity as a city where other artisan activities such as glazing, silver and mother of pearl inlay were carried out to the highest standards. When Sirkeci turned into a place where commercial activities became concentrated, contruction developed in accordance with this change.

12- Historic Simkeşhane building part of which was destroyed and Bath House of Sultan Beyazıt II Complex (Kulliyah) right across to it. This bath house which is known among people as “Patrona Halil Bath House” managed to save itself from annihilation despite the insisting demands of some intellectuals. (<em>İstanbul’un Kitabı</em>)

Architect Kemaleddin Bey, who was one of the thinkers-artists that reacted to Tanzimat corruption and destruction, such as the transformation of a completely wooden Galata into big stone structures sacrificed Hamidiye Social Complexes while he was building Dördüncü Vakıf Han. Such a tragedy. He was only considering the facade while building this complex. He also made some mistakes regarding the facade. However, while city life took place mostly on the sea, in other words, in the Haliç, boats were used to traveling from one side to the other on the Bosphorus. The view of the city not only comprised of streets and mosques but also of the image as seen by people travelling on the water. However, Kemaleddin Bey did not consider how the buildings he was constructing would create an unfavourable view of the city from these areas. Even today, after layers of barbarity, the ugliness of the side of Dördüncü Vakıf Han overlooking the sea is still evident. Here, we can refer to the disapperance of the epistemological source of the Turkish-Ottoman viewpoint that reflected an Islamic identity. In other words, the basic belief and philosophical conviction regarding the fact that knowledge would only be gained by being around, seeing and examining the object or the event that was the subject of knowledge disappeared. Kemaleddin Bey probably was not even aware of such a thing.

In the West, there were the neoclassicism and academism movements. Kemaleddin Bey’s action was a reflection of the influence of these movements in Turkey. Therefore, it is difficult to understand this issue at heart and assess it so as to find a solution to the issue. Surely, it is impossible to disregard the elegance of small masdjids such as the Bebek Mosque. This can be better understood when considered in detail, but it can be said that no otherconventional mosques were built after Kemaleddin Bey other than the elegant masdjids that he built. In conclusion, even today, İstanbul continues to hold these misconceptions and still attempts to organize the city into wide boulevards. In 1926 after İstanbul’s liberation, strong public opposition took place regarding the incident in Beyazıt The reason for the public’s hostility was the destruction of this urban area by both planting trees and building stores on either side of the road in Beyazıt Square, a plan devised by Kemaleddin Bey. The fact that cars drove around the monument in Etoile Square in Paris was probably taken into consideration when Kemaleddin Bey organized Beyazıt Square in this way.. However, the post-Tanzimat attitude that pushed the mosque and its cultural importance outside of the living space was softened. A compromise was reached. Since the term “progress” was understood to mean following the West by Abdülhamid II and the Unionists, foreign engineers were brought to Istanbul and several narrow-scoped projects were carried out by them.

13- Ordu Avenue was broadened by destroying some building which deemed necessary to be destroyed and its levelling and blockage were completed. In a very short time, it was going to be covered with 25 cm concrete and then asphalted. (<em>İstanbul’un Kitabı</em>)

Marshall Moltke made a map of İstanbul. Mahmud II’s term... The opening of the narrow axe shaft of Beyazıt-Çemberlitaş-Divanyolu was during that period in the 1830s. Marshall Moltke’s map that he prepared in the 1830s, can be considered the first construction plan since the map and opening the axe complemented each other. Each of the engineering projects which were disconnected from each other and initiated by Unionists was primitive and disasterous. An important name after the declaration of the Republic, a German architect, Helgötz... An engineer... Engineers and architects in Germany were not separate at that time. A plan drawn by him included narrow areas as well. It included proposals to open new roads. His writings also included his thoughts about the port. In short, after Helgötz, two other people were invited to Istanbul in the 1930s. Prof. H. Prost and Martin Wagner. These two architects were placed in two separate rooms in the municipality in 1937, so they were in competition to some extent. Wagner had written ten to fifteen very important articles regarding Istanbul and urban issues. However, he concluded that he could not do anything in Istanbul in one year and left for Harvard. He drew a city scheme that influenced the whole of the twentieth century. Wagner’s reports were pretty explanatory but not many people read his work in Turkey. These reports are very serious texts that explained how the new ideas developed in the city law of Western Europe and which issues Istanbul encountered relatively.

Prost’s Construction Plans

Prost remained in Istanbul. He came to Istanbul as a member of the French Academy independent of the new ideas developing in France as a Frenchman; he prepared a regulation plan for the peninsula and prepared plans for the Bosphorus. All these plans were regarding the opening of new roads. I had my first city planning class in 1943. Misgivings arose regarding Prost’s plans during those years. In particular, Sedat Bey (Sedat Hakkı Eldem) complained about Prost’s plans in his conversations with his close associates although he did not write anything regarding those plans. He was right. For instance, until 1939 there were unbelievably beautiful waterside residences along the road where cars passed in Emirgan. There were also sultan’s palaces in Arnavutköy during those years. The art nouveau palaces in Kuruçeşme were demolished in 1940. They were the most important architectural monuments of the art nouveau style. Anyway, we attended the first city planning class. Our teacher was the German Professor Oelsner who was responsible for the planning of Hamburg. He asked, “Can you tell me what the Turks should do?” For nearly 15 minutes forty to fifty students tried to answer Oelsner’s question stating that they should do this and that. In the end, he said he would give us the answer and added, “They should pray!” When everybody started laughing, he said, “I am not joking, I am serious.” “I will tell you one more thing and I assume you do not know that either. Why should Turkish people pray?” We said lots of things but he said, “You do not know again. They should pray to not have the administrators that would implement the construction plans held in the safes of the municipality! If these construction plans are put into practice, this country will not be able to get back on its feet for the next several centuries.” It was virtually a prophecy. While the Governor Lütfi Kırdar was destroying the Bosphorus palaces and Bosphorus waterside residences by opening the coastal roads in the Bosphorus, large art nouveau monuments were demolished in order to build a coal storehouse. Actually, both the formation and demolition of the art nouveau monuments were important events because the first signs of this movement emerged in 1908 and was influential worldwide for nearly a decade. The influence of this style, which was born in Belgium, continued for another fifteen to twenty years. The largest art nouveau monuments were built in Turkey over such a short period which was amazing. Foreign architects came from Italy etc.. Turkey caught up with a style that influenced the whole of Western culture at the moment that it was happening which showed that it was following events in the world very closely. We were not able to follow the developments in the art world as closely after that. However, I believe that you can get ahead of the world by staying outside of the developments in the West. The pioneers of Westernization did not stay as close to the developments of the twentieth century, except for a few buildings built by Sedat Bey before 1938 during Atatürk’s term. Some of my friends and I have written a couple of works criticizing the modern practice in Turkey and it was twenty to twenty-five years ahead of the post-modernist movement. In the post-modernist movement, it is argued that basic principles should be emphasised through a working knowledge of the Ottoman world in a more conscious way. However, the Westernization movement in Turkey was never so close to the West. So, the destruction of art nouveau structures in Kurucesme was an atrocity. Think about it, amazing palaces were demolished to build coal storehouses instead.

We were talking about Prost’s plans, right? They submitted those plans to Menderes as if they were blindfolded. Limancı Hamdi Bey (Hamdi Başar) served as the Director of Istanbul Ports, had many ideas and wrote many articles about Turkey. After the Democrat Party became the ruling party in 1951, a congress called the Istanbul Development Congress convened. One of the most important subjects discussed at that congress was the problem of transportation in Istanbul. Prost’s plans were criticized in this congress. Actually, it was me who criticized them. However, a group of professors from the Technical University... A group comprised of Emin Onat Bey, who was a talented administrator, and Kemal Ahmet Bey, put themselves in the forefront during the period of financial welfare that happened suddenly during the first days of the Democratic Party. They built a group of houses, firstly in the Levent and then the first Levent with the help of Emlak Kredi Bank. They put forward a plan for Istanbul promoting the idea of building new neighbourhoods and new cities and they became the people in charge of this plan. Five people... Mithat Yenen Bey, Cevat Erbel, Mukbil Gökdoğan, and Mehmet Ali Handan, a professor of architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts, an Istanbul gentleman with good intentions, a joker, a bit serious but with good intentions... A consultant committe was formed of these five individuals. This committe started work by considering, “If Prost has prepared the presentation plan of the Istanbul peninsula, then we should prepare the plan for the Beyoğlu peninsula.” This attempt stemmed from differences in opinion with H. Prost. Prost argued that the city should not be expanded towards the north in order to protect the Bosphorus of Istanbul’s nature. This was an extremely accurate diagnosis. On the other hand, Kemal Ahmet Bey and his friends found it very easy to expand the city towards the empty fields in the north and the first Levent was Kemal Ahmet Bey’s creation. They proposed settlement in the North as an extension of Beyoğlu, as Beyoğlu, Osmanbey, Şişli and Teşvikiye were the residential areas of Istanbul’s scholars, elite families and distinguished individuals. I will tell you later why Prost was right. The criticisms which I directed at Prost in the Development Congress were in regard to the fact that he wanted to open boulevards on Istanbul’s peninsula and to plant the idea of placing boulevards and concrete apartment buildings there when there was no need. Also, it was impossible to organise Istanbul just based on the plan of the city’s peninsula. What we learned from world literature during those days encouraged us to argue that a city should be approached as a whole. However, I learned about Prost’s attempts to stop the expansion towards the north in detail when I started working for the municipality as a consultant in 1957.

14- One can say that the development projects on Ordu Avenue began with the construction of the building of Istanbul University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In place of this building, until 1940 there had been Zeynep Hanım Mansion which was one of the first stone and brick buildings in Istanbul (<em>İstanbul’un Kitabı</em>)

The Beyoğlu plan of Kemal Ahmet Bey and his friends presented preferences that encouraged disturbing land speculation as well as promoting the expansion of the city towards the north. We felt the need to criticize this approach in 1957. The Deputy Mayor Sedat Erkoğlu formed a board in 1955 in order to help regulate and improve the architecture in the city: the “Aesthetic Control Board”. This board would evaluate and review important architectural projects in order to grant a license. The board had two projects. One was the construction of a port in Salıpazarı and the other was the extension project of the military facilities in Heybeliada. A semi-colored strange building full of paintings, colored windows and other buildings behind it would be built next to the elegant and small Naval School building that was built in the 1870s in Heybeliada. We thought that writing these projects was wrong and that we would have to undertake a lot of responsibility if we rejected as a result of the rigorous discussions on the board. We came to an agreement that these two facilities should not be built. The board was abolished the next day. Some of the people who were concerned by the board’s decision came to the forefront saying, “Our architects do not undertand the efforts of those who want to make investments and develop the country” in order to make themselves more influential among senior politicians. Faruk Akçer, who studied in England, spoke very good English but did not work as an architect... He joined the consultancy group later. My criticisms regarding the attitude of the advisory group of the Chamber of Architects were very effective. As representatives of the Chamber of Architects, Aydın Germen and I carried out a study that presented the principles in the preparation of construction law in 1957, and the establishment law of the Ministry of Public Works and Housing. Later, Aydın Boysan also partially joined this study. The opinions and proposals that we put forward from within the chamber were not taken into consideration then. However, I was given the task of consultancy by the municipality once again in 1957.

Adnan Menderes and the Construction of Istanbul

Adnan Menderes started implementing H. Prost’s the main line of the plans on a vast scale in 1957. However, the practice of demolishing the historical city and constructing similar roads started earlier. Atatürk Boulevard was constructed before Menderes’ time during the term of Governor Lütfi Kırdar. During his time, an important segment of the coastal roads was constructed, which led to the demolition of the waterside residences and waterside palaces along the Bosphorus from 1938 to 1939. In 1939 -1940 Istanbul started to be destroyed due to such practices. For instance, while Taksim Barracks in Taksim could have been restored perfectly and converted into a museum and cultural center, it was demolished and turned into a meaningless green area in line with Prost’s plans. The same thing happened to other barracks as well.

At this point I would like to tell you about an incident. Samet Ağaoğlu would visit us frequently since his father was a friend of my father. I have learned many things regarding Menderes’ time in office from him. Now, it is necessary to mention another institution. The Directorate of Ports, Railroads and Construction in the Ministry of Public Works and Housing implemented many negative projects particularly in coastal cities. The construction of streets that connected the railroad stations to the city, boulevards, piers right in front of the city, and ports were the product of this directorate during the period of the Republic. Someone called Rıza Bey was the head of this directorate in Menderes’ time. When I met him in 1958, he had been the head of the directorate for approximately 20 years. He was assigned to the post and he did not leave after that... It was a very strong directorate. I shall tell you the reason for this.. In 1938, H. Prost, said, “It is necessary to know where the port should be for the planning of Istanbul. In this sense, I would like to learn what the Turkish government thinks about it”. The article he wrote was sent to the Ministry of Public Works by the Governor Lutfi Kirdar. This article can be found in the folders that include the correspondences of Prost. The Minister of Public Works, Ali Çetinkaya, responded to the letter, a perfect disciplinary, scolding, angery outburst... “So a foreigner comes and wants to know what the Turkish government thinks. How dare he? What insolence! Who is he to know what the Turkish government thinks?” this letter is a document that shows the level of culture of high-level administrators of the period. Based on this incident, Ali Çetinkaya placed somebody like Rıza Bey as the head of this directorate. Rıza Bey submitted three projects regarding ports that would be constructed in Salıpazarı, Haydarpaşa and Yenikapı to Menderes but he did not submit the projects alone. Mithat Yenen Bey, who had an equivalent position to Rıza Bey in the state hierarchy, and Rıza Bey took İstanbul’s port issue to Menderes in 1954-1955. Menderes did not give consent and resisted the port projects in Haydarpaşa, Salıpazarı and Yenikapı until 1958. However, Menderes finally approved the project upon the insistence of these five people after resisting and hesitating for three to four years. But he was not content. Holland Royal Port Construction Company got one of these tender bids, the Salıpazarı Port construction. One of the consultants of this company was Professor Hanrad. A world-renowned and important port and transportation expert. An authority who could calculate the transportation axes in a country, in a region... Professor Hanrad was instructed regarding a project about the ports and strategical transportation axes of Turkey upon the order of Menderes. I listened to what Hanrad told a young economist who was a professor of economics at Istanbul Technical University, Faculty of Civil Engineering and who had helped Hanrad in this project. Hanrad finished his report at the end of 1959. The report was given to Rıza Bey. Rıza Bey locked the reports in the safe boxes in his room and the reports were not found until after his death. Regarding Haydarpaşa Port, Professor Hanrad said, “This is a big mistake; this should never happen. There is no cost difference if a ship brings goods to Haydarpasa Port or to Izmit Port. However, if these products are unloaded at Haydarpasa Port, the 100-km land transportation will be a very serious expense for Turkish economy,” because the products would be dispatched to Anatolia. Is it easier to transfer them from Izmit or Haydarpaşa? Despite this, Rıza Bey had Haydarpaşa Port built and hid the report.

15- The view of Beyazıt Square after the works of development started. This square which had been dealt with long before the pedestrinaziton project of Turgut Cansever and turned into one of the most vibrant traffic intersection of Istanbul. It had lost its historical pool which had been the subject for several literary works during this period. (<em>İstanbul’un Kitabı</em>)

People surrounding Menderes

I would like to give another example to describe the people surrounding Menderes. I always objected. I paid a high price for one of my objections. The Drapers Cooperative (IMC) was to be built in Unkapanı. The continuation of the old Süleymaniye Neighbourhood, Vefa Neighbourhood, was there. They planned to demolish this neighbourhood and build the Drapers Cooperative. How did this happen? Drapers asked the municipality for a storehouse in Haydarpaşa or Topkapı. Technocrats in the municipality thought that if the neighbourhood was demolished (Vefa, Ataturk Boulevard area), the area would look nice and clean so they coerced and persuaded the drapers. When I heard about this, I started objecting and writing to the municipality, the directorate of construction, the deputy mayor and to the Chamber of Architects saying that this should be prevented. There was a lawyer in Istanbul then. I don’t remember his name. This lawyer accepted the cases of expropriation and he bought all the experts. He had the experts carry out assessed valuations. He received half of the money from the first assessed valuation and the one performed later. He became one of the richest people in Istanbul this way. After a while, Menderes prohibited this man from working as the lawyer on cases of land value increase in Istanbul. Another network of twenty-five to thirty lawyers was formed and that network starting working in that area.

Menderes’s flaw was his arrogance... Also he did not know how to ask for advice or how to place the right people around him, I will give you another example: Vatan street was being constructed. The Murad Pasha Bath, which was a part of the social complexes and an amazing architectural piece was next to the Murad Pasha Mosque. The bath had a perfect stalactite decoration. The outer part was a stone structure. All of the Turkish baths were like that. They planned a road in that direction which demolished the bath. We had some friends who worked at the municipality perform a survey of the bath and started a campaign to save it. One Monday, Faruk Akçer came up to me and said, “We were with the him until 2.30 am last night. He is furious. He is very frustrated that people are preventing him from demolishing the bath. You keep saying that you will defend the bath against him?” I said, “Of course, I will.” So we went to the municipality. They wanted to extend Barbaros Boulevard down to Sinan Pasha Mosque. We were trying to explain that Barbaros Boulevard should not be straight but should follow the curve that followed Yıldız Garden and connect to the lower street – there was a road that came down from Serencebey – one hundred meters away from Sinan Pasha Mosque so that the surroundings of Sinan Pasha Mosque could be saved. There were also some beautiful wooden mansions there. In short, we went to the Governor’s personal secretary. Cevat Erbel Bey opened the Barbaros Boulevard plan and explained it. He looked at me as he was talking – the governor was there as well- and he said to the governor, “Turgut does not want this to pass close to Sinan Pasha Mosque. The governor asked why. I explained why the road should not pass by there. Then they called us in and we went in. Eight to nine ministers including Samet Ağaoğlu and Fatin Rüştü Zorlu were sitting in a crescent seating plan... Menderes’s face had turned white and he was tense. He said, “Tell me what you have done.” They put this project in front of him. He asked why. He said, “You told me that this road would go this way and Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha Tomb would be opposite to it. Are you giving up on this idea now?” Cevat Bey said, “Our friends here said it should not be this close to the mosque.” Menderes asked how close it was. “Three meters.” “How far should it be?”, “Eight to nine meters.” Menderes “Oh my, eight to nine meters is not worth mentioning. Do whatever is necessary. I ask you, and request you to do whatever your expertise requires you to do. Now explain the other subject.” The other subject was Vatan street. “What is the latest news on Vatan Street?” They said, “Sir, Murat Pasha Bath is a very valuable piece of art, the doctor – Faruk Akçer would refer to me as the doctor due to my PhD degree- says that the bath should not be demolished and there should be a small change of direction in Vatan Street.” He turned to me, “A change of thirteen meters three degrees is not important at all, it can be done.” Faruk Akçer said, “The doctor should explain it to you.” Menderes said, “It is not necessary. I saw that bath, it was a run-down place from outside, that’s why I told them to build the road immediately. If it is valuable, why would we demolish it?” The next day, Muzaffer Uluşahin, who was one of the people who led Menderes astray, called me and Faruk Akçer and said, “You are contradicting the idea that we made him accept. We will make you pay for this. We will take the people who approved your idea to Menderes that day and we will destroy that mess. On Thursday, they had Menderes approve the demolition of the bath. Look, these men, who lacked the bravery and the strength to defend anything and did what they did hiding behind Menderes, finally had him hung after discrediting him. They were treated with great respect after the coup. Muzaffer Uluşahin was later appointed general manager of Ereğli Iron Steel.

The People as Guardians of Istanbul

I would like to mention two serious incidents of public resistance in Istanbul. There was a terebinth at a place called the Point of Terebinth where the Sakızağacı Neighborhood reached the sea in Bakırköy. It was around one thousand two hundered years old. It was one of the monuments of Istanbul. They wanted to cut this tree down in order for the coastal road to pass through there. Bakırkoy Neighbourhood made a lot of effort and set up roadblocks for three to five months in order to prevent this tree from being cut down. The tree was ultimately felled by the Highway Authority. There was a four to five hundred year-old sycamore tree in Millet Street. It was called ‘the sycamore planted by Fatih’. The public of that municipality also blocked the road for three months to prevent this tree from being cut down.

Menderes’s mistake was not knowing how to choose his advisers. Turkish society was suppressed, unresponsive and disconnected from the environment. Construction projects that turned the whole of the Istanbul peninsula into apartment buildings were built during the years 1957-1960. The construction of the bridge was also part of this effort. In the final recommendations section on the left side of page 81 of the feasibility report (1956) prepared by the firm of Delew Cather, it was recommended that the bridge should not be built according to the data available, and a planning and execution authority should be set up to control and regulate the development of the metropolis in order to prevent the highly negative results if the bridge was built. The authority was not set up, nor was the bridge built, after removing the discrepancies in the two available theses. Prof. L. Piccinato, who was the advisor to the Department of the Prime Minister, in Istanbul, then argued that the city would not develop towards the north if the bridge was built, while the firm of De Leuw Cather argued that it was inevitable for the city to expand towards the north. De Leuw Cather’s proposal was correct and it was realized.


1 a mode in Turkish classical music

2 a stringed instrument

3 a mode in Turkish classical music

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.