Public ‘Place’ment

July-August 2013
Translated from Turkish by Translators For Justice

by Cem Sorguç

First of all, I prefer to call this process ‘a blossoming of beauty and hope’ rather than an ‘issue.’ Considering the medium in which this article is published, it will be useful to relate the topic to the point/s of origin rather than to social and revolutionary readings. Very little time has passed since it started, so, we are not in a position to resolve it or develop a strategy (is it even necessary to do so?) Spatial conservatism manifests itself in two ways – and this statement does not only concern the present. The first one is the revitalization of the past for historical and political purposes… The other is attributing immunity under the aspect of ‘conservation’; mythifying a habit, an absolute acceptance – with merits, faults and all – through a secret metaphysical attitude…
Embodying both of these attitudes, Gezi Park is distinct from other urban spaces that have been or are set to be subject to intervention.
The use and the development and transformation of visual public spaces in line with transparency and participation would not be a matter of debate in democratic governments. We already know and accept this. We are also aware that the dysfunctioning of this method is a problem of method. Therefore, maybe it is time that we discuss this and similar long-standing topics leaving aside the methodological deformation. Although it may seem like a second stage, again considering the main thrust of this article, the disclosure of the real issue at this point may resolve the first stage, which is based on a rather political and administrative failure. All governments are propagated and justified through their own spaces.
Examples such as Gezi Park and Çamlıca are the imaginary bases of this justification and propagation strategy and the Channel Istanbul, the 3rd Bridge and the Eurasian tunnel projects are other means of this hybridized justification, whereby the rhetoric of development supports a pragmatic defense that runs parallel to the myth of government. If you suggest a way forward, or a method that incorporates participation, the current government takes it that you are questioning its legitimacy. At stake, even at this point, is the politicization of space. Therefore, although they involve other components and long-standing social discomforts, the resistance and sensitivity that have emerged from considerations of space are significant in terms of questioning the legitimacy of political power through space not only for Turkey but also for the world at large.
At this point, I think spatial immunities that are exempt from political power should also be questioned. This use of ‘space’ is valorized to the extent that it is sustainable and encourages increasing participation. We need to conduct a long-term research to include in this process the idle aspects of urban public spaces of the growing and changing city through transparent and participatory methods and investigate ways to realize past studies on this. Yes, we have a problem of quality, but let’s face it; we’re not doing great in terms of the number of projects developed either. The majority of the workshops carried out at schools of architectural planning focus on the notion of land, that is, those areas of the city that have potential for development. If, in the future, such workshops generate projects apart from those for the built environment, and if these projects are fostered in our modest homes, we could at least see an end to the motto of ‘one idea, one project, one attire, and I know the best’ and the ‘constructed’ spaces of the ‘one man.’

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