A Message For Land Owners

Photo of Halime Hanim Türbesi in Van, 2004
Over the past years of meetings, contrary to my initial expectations, I have been pleasantly surprised to realize how policy makers and developers tend to side with long term urban integrity and rational architecture.

However, I wouldn’t be able to state the same for the majority of land owners, they are in a complete different world. Most land owners look at the urban fabric as a stock investor would look at the DOWJONES stock index, nothing more. They couldn’t care less of building blocks being urban friendly or not. And because the developer has to also satisfy the needs of the land owner in order go through with the project, he reluctantly ends up in a position where he has to defend something that he himself also does not believe in. But, ironically, when most land owners travel to Western and Central Europe for vacation, they come back and praise those cities they’ve seen, showing the many photos they took there in an urban space closed to vehicular traffic, enclosed by attached residential buildings, with clear height limitations and a gang of personell from the State’s preservation and urban planning department vigirously inspecting all facades in case of a an unplanned foul that may change the city’s preserved image.
One would think they would extract some lessons, but when they come back home no effort is shown when it comes to fixing their own built environments. Just to make a few extra bucks in the short term they throw their cities under the bus in a matter of seconds. What they do fail to realize is that “A man is a product of his environment’ and by ignoring the urban problems the country is facing today, in the long term they are harming themselves and the future of their genetic lineage as much as they are harming all of us with these greedy short sighted decisions.
We are living in a country where the moment you turn on TV you see never ending commercials of residential projects going on air one after another. For a person living in the USA or EU this is not a common thing. Because of the increasing population there is a huge demand for residential projects and a giant wave of opportunities to fix our cities and create new fabrics which are based on worked out urban principles rather than projects which prioritize short term gain, leaving the collective values of a city in ruins.
The huge wave of demand in housing which we are currently in is still pretty big and won’t be over any time soon. Thus we still have time to fix the urban mess that we are in.
Since the land owners virtually could be any body with some money, the only solution is through educating the masses on urbanism and how it affects their daily lives. We need to increase funding for education systems and get some people who know what their doing to run the shows in universities. I don’t even think we have a department in Historic Preservation here yet, and we have 15 of the 834 World Heritage sites in Turkey according to UNESCO. Only 20-30 years after the educational reforms we would be able to start seeing the beginning of change for the better in our urban fabrics.
Photo of Halime Hanim Türbesi in Van, 2008
The day I look at google maps, and see a handsomely contained city with boundaries, a clear center and a rational working grid is the day Europeans will start to take us seriously. And subsequently, our architects will start playing in the first league and champions league as opposed to the second league which we have been trapped in.

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