I am probably beating a dead horse by writing about the very strange change in Istanbul’s architectural character. I wrote before about the discomfort of Istanbul and I experienced the same when we visited there in October 2019. In my previous visits and related posts, I called Istanbul with a nickname I coined for it: Towertown. This time, I am giving it an advanced degree, Ph.D.: Piled Higher and Deeper! Many of the new developments create a feeling of everything being piled on top of each other, which you may feel in some of the photographs below.
I did not go to special places to photograph the architecture, I mean the buildings. I took almost all the photographs from a car as the driver took us to different places. Any fuzziness or blur is due to the car movement and my shaky hands. On top of that, they were all shot through either the windshield or through the side window. In other words, excuse the imperfections in the photographs, I tried to render the buildings as best as I could in the photographs. Even the couple of photographs of the new airport with their dominant gray tones were done in passing. The arrival at the airport greets the visitor with a mosque with modern lines and minarets that may make you recall some unrelated things. Inside, the newness is combined with a sense of darkness, maybe the lights were dimmed when we were there.
I am not an architect, but I have an interest in the art and science of architecture. When I visited Chicago many years ago, by luck, I was sitting next to a professor emeritus of architecture on the bus and he gave me some information about the Chicago School and its style. Along the same lines, one may try to find a particular school behind the new buildings in Istanbul, alas.
I entertained modern, no, it did not fit. Perhaps postmodern, maybe some but I doubt it. Then, I thought of “arabesque” and saw traces of that in the buildings. However, the term probably remains on the surface and ornamentation although some of the buildings come darn close to that style in their overall shapes. And, ornamentation has become very important in the new architecture of Istanbul, not only as surface ornamentation but also the building as ornamentation. Many of these new structures seem to aspire to convey decorative shapes, outlines, and possibly forms of flowers. That said, “in the style of Arabs” possibly fits in this context even if arabesque may only touch them on the surface.
I have not seen Dubai, but have seen photographs of its new buildings. Starting with their curvacious buildings, modernist arabesque elements, I wonder if the architecture of Istanbul could be called Dubaiesque? Curves, curves, everwhere. Hyperbolic shapes, buildings twisted like Rubic’s cube, extensive use of glass gave me the idea that the source of inspiration may indeed be Dubai. It is even possible that some of these buildings may be owned by some Dubaians. Look at some photographs of the architecture of Dubai and then compare them to the following photographs, or run a search on new architecture in Istanbul. There is probably more money in Dubai to spend on architecture and modern buildings. Famous architects seem to have marked their names in the Dubai skyline. Therein may lie the differences one may observe between the two cities and their architecture.
I also would like to point out that my experience and photographs are in stark contrast to a series of photographs by a Turkish architect and photographer Yener Torun. I had seen his work before but recently a friend kindled my memory and I looked at his photographs once more. Granted, Istanbul is a huge city and there may be some gems he has found and photographed. However, I cannot help but wonder how lucky he must be to find all those colorful surfaces free from any scuff marks, dirt, dust or other blemishes. I may have a building (see if you can find the building in the last photo among mine below) or two that may also appear in his collection, but they are much cleaner, almost pristine, and brilliant in color. As the cliche goes: He must have a really good camera to grab the scenes with no blemishes.
I would very much like to hear from people who know, study, and teach architecture, different styles, practices, and find out where I may be wrong about the new trends in construction in Istanbul. Most of these buildings, and the ever-present cranes perched on top of new ones rising scratched the back of my eyes every time I looked in any direction. They were everywhere. See what you think, and do let me know in the comments.
I am really curious.
Addendum: The Guardian published the shortlist of architectural photography for 2019. No entries from Istanbul, no surprise.