Heterotopia2002 is an independent creative group, working in certain areas of Istanbul, doing interactive projects and dealing with the concepts of heterotopia, urban experiments, space, relative periphery, in-between spaces, identity and migration. The collaborative projects are highly dependent upon and enriched by the eclectic nature of our group sharing similar but not the same interests and like to follow a certain process. The members consist of a senior architecture student, an architect, an art historian-sociologist, and a graphic designer. It’s open to anyone who likes to share ideas and who are willing to work collaboratively. The linguistic roots of “Heterotopia” comes from the Greek word "heteros" meaning "other," and the Greek word "topos" meaning "place." According to Michel Foucault, the primary obsession of the 20th century is the time and the space. In his work “of other spaces”, by 'heterotopia' Foucault means the coexistence in 'an impossible space' of a 'large number of fragmentary possible worlds’.
As our living and working environment Istanbul is a city that contains diverse ethnic groups, local-global tension and trans-geographic experiences in the context of east and west. Therefore the different urban identities that co-exist in multilayered spaces of Istanbul, create heterotopical experiences, various environmental behaviors and visual codes.
How heterotopical spaces exist in Istanbul?
This question which is actually related to the current political, cultural, social and economical situation that goes back to the history of this city. The political changes in the last century like the transformation of the society from Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic, economical strategies after World War II, political struggles resulted as an unorganized urban structure, growing number of population and unstable urban texture of Istanbul. Since Byzantine times, Istanbul (Constantinople) is a cosmopolite city that is a cross road between east-west mainly as a trade market region. Both in Ottoman and Byzantine period, the culture of the city was presented by various cultures and religions. Especially the physical urban texture architecture, the identity of districts shaped by the local cultures in the city since early centuries. The new Turkish government and the construction of the imaginary national Turkish identity aimed to diminish the differences between ethnic cultures and other communities in beginning of the last century. The conflict between the identity of the city and the nation continued through 40s and 50s with the development of nation-state politics.
In 70s Istanbul was one of the third world cities (Öncü, p 14,), explosive population growth, increasing polarization of classes and huge number of immigration from Anatolia. The change of the culture reflected itself in movies, music and daily life. Huge number of immigration resulted in a huge number of temporary shelters in the periphery of the city that become permanent district and influenced the city centers nowadays. A recent workshop and lecture series we have attended was “Urban Flashes” which dealt with the concept of the patchwork of the mega-city Istanbul and mainly concentrated on the landfill areas, center periphery interaction, relative peripheries. Keyder, defines the development of the structure of globalization of the Istanbul as an unsuccessful process (Keyder, p.26, 1999). Beside the development of liberal economical strategies after 1980 that lead to open to growing large scale international companies which also changed the some part of the city by filling global culture trades and brands. Early 1980s the large transnational banks faced the massive Third World debt crisis, international economy did simply break into fragments. The geography and composition of the global economy changed so as to produce a complex duality a spatially yet globally integrated organization of economic activity (Sassen, 1991, p.65). Liberalism after 1980 and movement of globalization changed some parts of the urban survey of Istanbul; high skyscrapers, postmodern office buildings and business centers. The new urban survey also changed the life style and daily life in the city. The increasing digital power in 1990s produced an unequal digital structure and information system in the mega cities or global cities. As Sassen points outs, except the centers in the city other ghettos or periphery sites where a lack of developed digital structure (Sassen, 1999, p.60).
Keyder acknowledges the unequal urban structure that was developed with the economical and politic strategies in early 1990 in Istanbul. Beside large scale international investment and companies and changing daily life with global consumption culture the ghettos and periphery parts and also the relative peripheries in between city centers were developed the subculture of Istanbul. Unstable urban organization and regulation that were taken and running by municipalities in Istanbul was directed by again unstable economical and political structure of Turkey. Moreover the effects of the illegal movements and markets such as black money circulation, drug market, car mafias and real estate mafias also changed the survey of the urban texture and structures which are controlled by various strategies by municipality, government and changing short period of political parties.
Migration shaped the city in last decade as other European cities. Turkish immigrant from Anatolia and rural places in 1960s expanded the city geographically. Also self building illegal dwellings and squattering the land, developed themselves as the part of the city. Those immigrant changed also the urban texture and everyday life of the city in various way such as popular culture, food. . .etc. As a gate to Europe, Istanbul became one of the important transit spaces for other immigrants and refugees in the early of 1990s. The end of the cold war or the fall of the Berlin wall, new status of Shengen regulation in Europe and new formation of EU are caused movements re-shaped borders and new border politics for territories, regions and countries. Immigrants from Russia and East Europe, from Middle East (Iraq and Afghanistan) and African immigrants from Africa began to use the city as a transit space to move to another country in Europe. Moreover huge number of immigrants from Anatolia, especially Kurdish families from East Turkey whose villages were burned out or moved, immigrated to Istanbul. In summary, multiculturalism, transnationality, hybrid forms of cultures produce tension not only between economical levels also in gender and religious practices that re-formed urban texture and practices.
The fragmentation of urban signs, time-space differences of various habitants and heterotopias where a lot of local places exist synchronously cause a multiple identity of the city. The local and global tension between culture cause not only an exotic texture but also a performative reading of the urban life.
We were in search for an appropriate area for our project in the character of these heterotopical places where we can realize our user-centered, communication based projects extended through a long period of time, have a longer process and finally have a plastic creation as an outcome. We wanted to observe the fusion of different fragments of everyday life and urban experience of it. Then we came across to the courtyard area in a very cosmopolite district, a historical sight as well as a commercial trade area. Our intention was to renovate, redesign the courtyard with the locals and users of that space in order to make it gain its uniting, positive atmosphere. We wanted to have constant input and interaction with these people. Otherwise it would end up as a previous project that couldn’t have been implemented by a professional architect, since he only had a distant look at the courtyard and the people. How to build a relation and interaction with these people and how to experience the courtyard have been a big question and a big challenge. Following the process of experiment, evaluation and deciding on the method we tried to come up with proposals for a better courtyard and create comman sense among different groups. We have been working in the site for months and observing the body and space relationships in the courtyard and working on projects on the perception and understanding of 2D, 3D and the peoples imagination or dream of the courtyard.