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Demolition Ordered to Restore Skyline

Monday, August 25, 2014

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Istanbul will recapture its old, majestic look, now that the government has ordered the demolition of new skyscrapers that sully the city’s historic views.

The Turkish government's Council of State confirmed the demolition and partial demolition of three apartment towers in the Zeytinburnu area of Istanbul after rejecting appeals of a December court ruling ordering their removal from the city's skyline.

Hagia Sophia Istanbul

Three newly built skyscrapers that block views of Istanbul's historic skyline have been ordered for demolition by the country's government.

The decision coincides with an ultimatum from UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to strip Istanbul's historic areas of their World Heritage Site status, meaning they would be added to a list of endangered sites at risk of destroying their history with new construction.

Demolition of the skyscrapers will restore views of the Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque.

The Buildings

The skyscrapers are a part of the OnaltiDokuz development in the west of Istanbul.

The residential towers, designed by Alpar Architecture for developer Astay Gayrimenkul, were to be a centerpiece for a 12-hectare development. The buildings varied in height between 27 and 36 stories.

OnaltiDokuz development Istanbul
OnaltiDokuz Istanbul

The three OnaltiDokuz residential buildings, pictured here under construction in 2011, were criticized as too tall for Istanbul's skyline.

According to the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman, two legal cases were launched against the development: one seeking cancellation of the construction permits; the other, to shut down the construction and destroy parts that had been completed.

City Permits

Back in 2012, activists and others criticized the OnaltiDokuz development, saying that the skyscrapers would ruin Istanbul's skyline.

"A new cityscape is being born in Istanbul, generally happening by completely ignoring the regulations or circumventing them, experts agree...," the newspaper said. "The city accommodates many tall buildings that exceed zoning regulations in the city."

The Istanbul Metropolitan Plan, the architectural guidelines for the city, bans shanty houses but includes no prohibition on constructing giant skyscrapers, the news outlet reported.

Even guidelines that are clear frequently are violated at the level of the City Council, which issues construction permits, the newspaper said.

It added: "While it is technically not permitted to erect buildings in some areas, corporations relying on the state authorities get what they want."


Tagged categories: Building codes; Construction; Demolition

Comment from John Fauth, (8/25/2014, 8:30 AM)

It's inconceivable to me that a country would cede control of its "skyline" (and economic development) to the United Nations. The hiss you hear are the hundreds of well connected US enviornmentalists who have discovered another means of controlling millions of US citizens and sharing a collective "Yesssssssssssssss!".

Comment from peter gibson, (8/25/2014, 12:42 PM)

How was a permit issued in the first place. I totally agree that the skyline should reflect the history of the city. Those buildings should be demolished. For those who dont care about history...well you know.

Comment from John Fauth, (8/26/2014, 9:11 AM)

Peter, it’s not that I don’t care about history (personally, I would not have approved the buildings either). But I care about sovereignty as well. The United Nations should not be the final arbiter of what is and isn’t historically valuable, particularly when it is something so artful as a skyline (ie: beauty is in the eye of the beholder).

Comment from M. Halliwell, (8/26/2014, 10:52 AM)

John, I’ll agree...when it comes to the a city skyline, why would the UN get the final say? Does an entire city get designated a UN historical site? Even if it does (which I am unaware of it happening), does that mean the UN gets to usurp local, regional and national government controls? Although I probably wouldn’t have let the buildings go up if I had a say, if Istanbul wants to add residential mid- and high rise buildings to its skyline, then that's their call.

Comment from Catherine Byrne, (8/26/2014, 2:56 PM)

It was said that no building in Philadelphia was allowed to be taller than William Penn in the direction that he is looking on top of city hall. It was a "gentlemen's agreement" until skyscrapers were built in 1987 to block his view.

Comment from Paul Braun, (8/27/2014, 8:51 AM)

Despite the fevered warning, I don’t see anything about the U.N. sending in blue helmets on black helicopters to destroy the buildings.UNESCO is rightly concerned that the cultural heritage of the city is endangered by your market forces run amok. as the article states: A new cityscape is being born in Istanbul, generally happening by completely ignoring the regulations or circumventing them, experts agree...," the newspaper said. "The city accommodates many tall buildings that exceed zoning regulations in the city." Let the market decide, and every single landmark building in the world will be history (pun intended). The article says that the

Comment from John Fauth, (8/27/2014, 9:27 AM)

Paul, I don’t think anyone is suggesting the market should decide what is and isn’t acceptable. On the contrary... I think we’re suggesting that it’s the right of sovereign local, regional and national governments to do so. And if they allow such buildings by their action or inaction, it is neither the right nor responsibility of the UN to step in and "correct" the situation.

Comment from Gavin Burgess, (8/27/2014, 10:08 AM)

I don’t believe that the UN did "step in (to) correct the situation". UNESCO simply stated that Istanbul would no longer be recognized as a World Heritage Site. The fact that UNESCO is a sub-body of the UN, arguably one of the most useless gatherings of highly paid individuals on the planet, tends to cast a pallor over UNESCO somewhat. OK, a lot. In their capacity, however, they actually perform a useful function by protecting (or attempting to protect) World Heritage sites of all kinds. They are not as much prisoners of political correctness as is the UN General Assembly, with it's members appointing Saudi Arabia to a Rights of Women committee (what???), they are actually just doing the job they have been appointed to do. On the other hand, they can't force the Istanbul City Council to do anything. The Council made the decision to maintain its status and the tourism benefits that come with it. It comes down to money. And they should fire the individual who approved the development in the first place, along with compensating the builder (not that they will, they just should).

Comment from Andrew Piedl, (8/27/2014, 6:28 PM)

As a self-proclaimed environmentalist, I don't understand why environmentalism is brought up in the comments. Putting up buildings and tearing them down is not at all an 'environmental coup' - it's kind of a disaster on many levels. I think that corruption is what led to these buildings being built in the first place. What a waste.

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