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Urban/Political Thresholds in Slums: Tarlabasi Istanbul

Part 2 Project 2014
Philip Galway-Witham
University of Cambridge Cambridge UK
Following sweeping changes to development and planning legislation, the informal and marginalized communities of the city of Istanbul have begun to experience in recent years a systemized process forced eviction and relocation. Historically stigmatized and socially excluded populations within the city centre have been targeted by mass urban regeneration projects in the name of civic regeneration and economic growth. For communities at the bottom of Istanbul’s socioeconomic ladder, the rampant growth of the city has led to a highly organized and effective campaign of urban transformation that promises to expropriate thousands of residents from their homes. The neighbourhood of Tarlabasi in central Istanbul represents one of the first districts targeted by this process of wholesale urban transformation. It is a derelict neighbourhood that has been, in the last thirty years, illegally inhabited by squatters following the departure of the original resident communities of Armenian and Greek merchants.

It is this form of contested, informal space that the design project explores, examining the conditions of socio-political conflict within informal settlements. Through a discussion of the underlying factors and actors within informal spaces experiencing conflict, this project speculates on how given urban environments, land and infrastructure are commandeered by informal use and the effects of such inhabitation at a political, social and civic level. The project examines, on a spatial and societal level, the impact of urban and architectural interventions at points of conflict between disparate actors in slums. Through the connection and reinterpretation of thresholds and boundaries that are the physical result of socio-political conflict within Tarlabasi, it aims to test the recalibration of urban networks as a means to create spaces of interaction and dialogue. It examines, thereby, the capacity of subsequent informal and incremental growth to develop a form of regeneration that mitigates entrenched societal and economic divisions within the slum. Drawing from research into contemporary practices of slum intervention the proposal explores the use of vertical urban infrastructure, catalysts of socio-economic opportunity and informal, incremental growth, as a means to create spaces that change existing patterns and spatial manifestations of politically charged urban conflict in Tarlabasi.

Philip Galway-Witham


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