Impact of gentrification on Istanbul

Istanbul is an everchanging city, and its architecture is no exception. The shift from traditional to modern buildings is slowly progressing. This gentrification is making a big difference in the architectural landscapes. Besides, these renovations also include many different consequences for the tourists and locals. Zuhal Ulusoy, dean of the faculty of Architecture at Bilgi University Istanbul, has a lot of experience in the field of architecture and urban studies, and specified in the topic of gentrification. “My forecast about how the architectural landscape is going to look like is not that optimistic. Middle income areas are once again put into a cycle of renovation, which causes an increase in their rent and overall living costs. I believe that in about 5 to 10 years, Istanbul will turn into a short-term area, for visitors who are going in and out. For locals it is going to be too expensive to live here.” Ulusoy also describes that Istanbul does not have a choice, the construction is encouraged because it is the driving force for the city’s economy. The building stock needs to be renewed somehow. “In the end, it will become a cosmopolitan city.”

Older buildings (house on the right) are getting taken down to build new houses (left) with better quality and more modern architecture. Due to this gentrification, the rent increases a lot which causes people getting pushed out of their homes. People walking by find it difficult as well. Even though they believe that the buildings need to be renovated for safety purposes, they still find it unfortunate that in about 5 to 10 years the whole town probably has left his traditional and older buildings and has a totally new architectural landscape.

There are big differences in the way people are living in Istanbul. In this picture you can see the ‘door’ of a room where people are sleeping. Tourists walking past this place think it is sad that there are such big differences in the city of Istanbul. “You can see big differences between the wealthy and poor.” The more gentrification is happening, the bigger the difference is going to be. This is because gentrification makes living in Istanbul much more expensive and not accessible for everyone anymore.

The new modern life blending in with the older and traditional neighborhoods. Electric cars, trams and taxis are seen in front of traditional buildings like mosques. Shop owner from Mud’n Mood in Karaköy says: “The impact gentrification has on my life is that there is too much traffic going on in the city and less parking spots which make a big difference in my day-to-day life. Besides that, it also makes my rent and general costs higher. A positive aspect for someone like me, who owns a shop close to the public transport, are the tourists who are coming more and more these days.

The owners of coffeeshop HUB962, which is placed across the street from these buildings, have pointed out that this is the perfect example of gentrification in Istanbul. “In probably 5 years’ time many buildings have been changed like this building on the right. Here is going to be a hotel, there is going to be a hotel, we know for sure that everything is going to change to more luxury for a higher income area.” Unlike some other locals, the owners of the coffeeshop would like to have this change. “It is going to be expensive, but it will attract more tourist who will come to our cafe.”

Ulusoy: “Renovating buildings is an investment. But if they are taking down buildings before it completes its usability of life, it’s a waste. The buildings are only getting more expensive and luxurious.” Locals will have to move away in the end, because they are not able to afford living in Istanbul anymore. For the tourists, it is a good thing, there are more hotels, Airbnb’s and restaurants specifically focused on tourist, but the downside is that this will take away the real culture of Istanbul in the end. Shop owner from Mud’n Mood in Karaköy has a strong opinion on this; “The architecture on the seaside is blocking the view which is not good. Besides that, the historical buildings are taken down, which I think is sad. I prefer the older traditional building in comparison to these modern buildings to keep the culture alive.”

The new Istanbul Modern Museum really shows what plan Istanbul has for their future. Compared to many other parts of Istanbul, this is really a big change. The architecture is recognizable by its clean lines and geometric shapes.

One by one all the buildings are turning into luxury hotels, like this one on the left. Which has his positive and negative aspects for both tourists and locals. Next to this hotel is a building which is still how it used to be but is ready to be renovated into the same luxurious architecture. On the opposite side of the buildings, you have a view over the sea. At this spot in Karaköy, there is made a border by a glass wall, which separates the city from the seashore with all the shops and restaurants there. Before you enter you need to go through security. They invented this since the renovations of the luxury buildings. Ulusoy: “This is the waterfront of the city; it should be accessible for everyone. It is not an airport, but it is staged like it is. This must be an open space for everyone. The weird thing is that only the owners of the place wanted it to have security. A lot of things we must accept is justified by security. To me that is not a positive concept.”