retro_aspublished - edited by Emanuele Guidi b_books A...

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b_books edited by Emanuele Guidi
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Orhan Esen A RETROSPECTIVE SURVEY OF ‘SELF-SERVICE’ PRODUCTION OF THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC SPACE IN ISTANBUL a model now fading out while urban renewal becomes top priority on the metro-politan agenda
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179 THE BACKGROUND TO SELF-SERVICE URBANIZATION The metropolis Istanbul has chronically faced a striking deficit of public investment. This fact became particularly evident after 1945, when the city recovered from shrink- ing tendencies of the 1930s and entered a period of bottom-up urbanization, backed by a spontaneous process of industrialization. Its population boomed by almost 1,500% to 13 million in 60 years. Throughout this process, the production and renewal of the built environment was mainly financed by the social and micro-capital generated by a whole range of ‘self-service’ measures that depended on people's own resources. Land, an indispensable resource in this process, was the government’s contribution to the model, at least initially. It could be squatted ‘for free’ if built environment was produced on it for use value, in the form of the classical ‘ gecekondu ’. From this initial stage until the 1980s, the collective efforts of migrant groups who settled on the city’s peripheries created a threshold between the rural and metropolitan spheres, thereby easing the first steps into their new, ‘urban’ world. Migrants’ start-up investment in the urban fabric was their social capital, comprising their skills, their conceptions of housing and settlement, and the organizational and networking capacities they brought from their native rural areas. It was shaped by their personal, partially collective labour and sup- plemented only to a limited extent by financial resources. A ‘self-service’ model based on production driven by micro-capital seems to have re- mained dominant for a lengthy period, even after the rather fast disappearance of the ‘classical’ gecekondu phenomenon. In a second phase of spontaneous urbanization af- ter 1980, the built environment was produced predominantly for its exchange value. ‘Informal’ small capital accumulated during the initial urbanization phase remained the main resource, one that was used to convert the former peripheries into densely overbuilt post- gecekondu areas or, alternatively, to aggressively develop new territories in a second wave of informal urban expansion. In that long ‘self-service city’ period, the public sphere was appropriated and redefined in an informal modus, as an inward movement from the newly established peripheries towards the centre, which re-introduced the pre-modern ‘blurred’ or ‘ambiguous’ dis- tinction between the public and private spheres. Later, particularly from the mid-80s on, all public space produced by the early Modernism of either the Ottoman respec- tively the Republican period was appropriated and reproduced in those same styles, to the amazement of the former ‘westernized’ urban middle classes. The major func-
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