Guest edited by Ömer Kanipak NCR-06 features a text by Aslı Kıyak İngin
Small-scale production sites located in the city centre, even though still very much alive as part of the production heritage of the city, are currently facing the threat of evacuation. This production method based on manual labour, transferred from generation to generation through the relationship of master and apprentice, should be preserved in accordance with the “Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage” to which Turkey became a party state in 2006. The preservation of the small-scale production model and its cultural heritage is only possible if its surrounding area is also preserved. Workshops that appear insignificant when seen individually, are in fact representatives of a great and regional economic scale through their unified existence and connections to the shared production network.
One of these small productions sites that are condensed in various different points in the city, with specialties in different disciplines, is the district of Şişhane neighbouring Karaköy, Perşembe Pazarı and Istiklal Street. Şişhane has a 100 year-old history as a center of illumination units. Having served as a technological base in its era, this area was able to sustain its vigour and spirit thanks to the technology importers who took over the buildings vacated by the finance sector, technical hardware companies and the ever-growing illumination sector. Despite its historicality, continuity and expertise in crafts, it was decided as part of the 1/1000 scaled Beyoğlu District Development Plans To Safeguard Urban Heritage Sites approved at the end of 2010, that the small scale production in Şişhane should be decentralized on the grounds that it damages the historical texture. After a failed attempt to relocate Perşembe Pazarı to the PERPA building, these development plans were also declaring this area as a renovation site.
Workshops in Şişhane produce works that are reliant on masterful handiwork and craftsmanship using simple machinery and hand tools. Compared to the interventions to the building stock mostly used by the fashion and tourism sector in the region, their intervention is minimal. Most of the coating workshops that may be harmful to the environment are closed down. According to the decisions in the plan, Şişhane and its surrounds are defined as a Commerce-Tourism and Service area. In the plan, production, sale, exhibition and training of traditional handcrafts that are said to be non-polluting (some of the professional groups cited here are listed among harmful and polluting factors for other areas) like wooden toy production, ebru painting, ornamenting with illumination technique, miniature painting, book binding, mother of pearl inlaying, copperworking, and gold and silver jewellery making are defined as the new professional practices that can be performed in this area. Interestingly, we can observe this future projection for the area in the gravures that adorn the walls of the metro stations. These gravures, instead of representing the current production in Şişhane, include drawings of workshops and master craftsmen specializing in traditional handcrafts as indicated in the plan.
It is yet unclear where the decentralized small production is going to continue its life span. There are no policies in place. More importantly, the survival of small scale production depends on its connection to the network, the market conditions and other aspects of its location. Without these, it runs the risk of disappearance. It is not possible for small-scale production to transform itself into a self-sufficient model of production and sales, resembling the operational system of large industries. These workshops with their connections to the production and sales network in and around their location, create an eco-system that is unique to that location.This small production network permeating the city functions like a living organism with its multi-optional and flexible production style. Compared to the visibility of the spaces belonging to large-scale industries, these small production sites are invisible in their integration to the current building stock. They are enveloped within an urban camouflage. In order to understand this invisible system, it is imperative that one spends quality time within this space.
The network system in the area consists of groupings along a vertical and a horizontal axis. Groupings along the vertical axis in terms of buildings and commercial houses consist of multi-optional structures where different stages of production and sales are organized. In such groupings, shops and tea buffets are located in the entrance, the middle floors house interim models where production and sales are in joint operation, and on the upper floors can be found workshops that produce spare parts. Alongside this system can also be seen different models where functional areas such as shops, offices and accounting departments are also housed. The groupings along the horizontal axis in terms of streets, consist of production and sales units specializing in certain products being located on the same street. The condensation of certain products like decorative illumination units, electrical appliances and glassworks on different streets contribute towards visibility and is therefore etched in the annals urban memory. In this model, instead of using known marketing techniques, spatial visibility and familiarity is used to create a market environment. Moreover, production and sales units that are separately located work in co-ordination with each other. Depending on customer’s request, it is possible for a product to go under revision and be returned on the same day. The players involved in production and sales are both rivals and friends to each other. The relationships in the area are not only economical and commercial, but also have a social and cultural dimension. This network joined also by creative players rises on a platform that supports innovation and creativity, thus resulting in the creation of original products and prototypes. In full contrast to the methods employed in serial production, a product is shaped through the interactive exchange between its designer and producer.
It is impossible for the small-scale producer to be disengaged from this network and still exist, or adopt a self-sufficient production model similar to that of large-scale industries. In recent years, these workshops have shown an increasing eagerness towards working with architects and designers to focus on producing high quality products in small numbers. Despite suffering losses as a result of the economic crises of the 1990’s, governmental policies to remove production from the city centre, and increasing pressure from the real estate sector, Şişhane has been able to sustain its production capacity. Using the region’s traditional production techniques and hundred year old machines, Şişhane is still able to churn out original works of high quality. While the relationship between local production and design has almost perished completely in Europe and the USA, there is a move towards re-creating this connection through the establishment of small workshops and technologies such as 3D Print. In comparison, small production sites like Şişhane and Kapalıçarşı in Istanbul are still continuing to offer important opportunities. Only at a walking distance, these sites provide opportunities for innovative ideas to meet with a firmly-grounded knowledge of crafts. These sites, with their extroverted, flexible and interactive production models are valuable assets not just for creative players but also for the locals and universities. In their openness to new experiences, they can even partake in alternative tourism.
Small production has so far been excluded from any visionary plans for urban development, as well as educational, design and industrial policies. But it does in fact carry a lot of potential for both today and the future. Instead of seeing these small production sites as outdated models that are harmful to the environment, we need to adopt a fresh outlook, appreciate them as innovative and potentially promising formations and renew our existing policies in line with this new direction.
 Edhem Eldem, 2000. Bankalar Caddesi, Osmanlı’dan Günümüze Voyvoda Caddesi. İstanbul: Osmanlı Bankası Bankacılık ve Finans Tarihi Araştırma ve Belge Merkezi .