A text by Ulus Atayurt, NCR02 – ” Thresholds”
Let us approach the question “For whose utilization is Beyoğlu being served in the near future?” in terms of social class and from a viewpoint of Pierre Bourdieu’s observation: “Each agent may be characterized by the place where he or she is situated more or less permanently, that is, by her place of residence… It is also characterized by the place it legally occupies in space through properties (houses and apartments or offices, land for cultivation or residential development etc.) which are more less congesting or, as we sometimes say, “consuming of space” (the ostentation of appropriated space being one of the form par excellence of the ostentation of power). It follows that the locus and the place occupied by an agent in appropriated social space are excellent indicators of his or her position in social space.” (Physical Space, Social Space and Habitus, 1996).
With the prime minister’s recently increased focus on Beyoğlu and Taksim, the real estate lobbies are hit every day by a different piece of news announcing the sale of this historical building or that historical inn in Beyoğlu – ‘the touristic hub of Istanbul’ – to one of several major companies like Ağaoğlu, Ulusoy, Çalık, Demirören, Ciner, Metro and Bilgili to be converted into hotels or luxury residental towers. The enthusiasm and initiative to gentrify Beyoğlu does not have its origins in the actions of companies and individuals belonging to the upper class bourgeoisie. What really whetted the appetite was the municipality’s “preservation plan” drawn to a scale of 1:1000, in accordance with the projections of AKP which left the doors wide open. One of the main aspects of the plan was the direct welcome it extends to the interventions of the capital through the holes it created under the name of “renovation areas”. As a result, a section of Tophane; the coastline that is intended to become Galataport; (even though it wasn’t indicated in the plan) Perşembe Pazarı; Bedrettin Mahallesi; the nine islands of long-lost Tarlabaşı; a very large section of the area around the tower in Galata, the area stretching from Tarlabaşı to Emek Cinema, Park Hotel and its environs were extracted from the plan and served on a golden tray to major companies under the pretense of the “renovation” discourse.
Except the fugacious crowds called tourists and the priviledged minority who will supposedly inhabit the residential suites, these sites will be largely devoid of a permanent human population. Other than these, in places like Tomtom (which still preserves its quality as a neighbourhood), the remaining parts of Tarlabaşı, Cihangir and Gümüşsuyu, the commercial areas will be increased and the population will be kept under 90.000. Thus, as we wittnessed in Serdar-ı Ekrem Sokak, the new boutiques, design offices, haute-couture tailors, and diners will begin to exert pressure on the lower classes. And according to the rule of reciprocity (which is due to strike anytime soon), the global players, international real estate companies will move into these neighbourhoods and the rents will “hopefully” increase to 3.000 Euros on average. In other words, to borrow from Bourdieu again, the “social space” will be largely cleansed from its local quality and will serve the consumer tastes of a priviledged few.