The Architecture of Geography: Istanbul, Mixed-Use Development, and the Panoramic Condition

The Architecture of GeographyIstanbul, Mixed-Use Development, and the Panoramic ConditionThe aim of the studio is to explore the urban and architectural potentials of mixed use development as it attains exponentially larger sizes and costs. Both the theoretical projections about scale (theories of bigness, of compactness, etc.) and the corporate models which have been adopted for such large scale developments in the past ten years (e.g. Emirates Towers in Dubai, Petronas Center in Kuala Lumpur) have proven inadequate in face of this new scale development and its potentials. Even the expressive or iconic aspects of these developments (two towers on a base, corporate identity suppressing the expression of mixture) have begun to show signs of fatigue. The studio focuses specifically on the geographic dimension of this new scale of development, the ability of urban architecture to reshape its larger context in a positive way.The setting of Istanbul is particularly important for this exploration. The arrival of a new scale of mixed use development into the city of Istanbul in the 1990s has shifted its business center to the northern areas of Maslak and Etiler and created new habits of working and living, further aggravating its traffic problems, and most importantly, radically transforming its historically protected skyline. The heavy bases disrupt the fabric of the city and block visibility and the tall towers they support challenge the horizontal geography of the city\’s panorama. The studio will explore the formal potentials of this horizontal geography as it manifests itself in two ways, one programmatic, and one visual. Horizontal Istanbul:There is no city that displays as much face as Istanbul. Panoramas unfold as frequently from the tops of its many hills as from its dense streets and public squares. This condition of heightened visibility is made possible by the city\’s amazing geographic location along the Bosphorus between the European and Asia sides, and between the Marmara and Black Seas. Because of the constant need to cross the Bosphorus whether by ferry or by car, the citizens of Istanbul enjoy these open vistas on a daily basis despite the serious traffic problems that result from this constant crossing. This condition has been sung, painted, architecturally punctuated, and admired by a succession of civilizations that have inhabited and shaped this city to the point where city\’s cultural diversity and historical wealth are frequently explained and represented through this horizontality.In the past fifty years however, and as the number of the city\’s inhabitants has grown from about 1 million to 15 million, the urban growth has extended both inland beyond the connection to the water and to the views threatening the continuity of the panoramic logic of the city. Recent master plans have been emphasizing the preservation of the city\’s skyline and its unique horizontality while simultaneously giving in to the pressures of large development projects to overwhelm this horizontality. The city\’s geographic uniqueness has been endangered by the spread of huge mixed-use projects.Mixed Use Development:Over the past twenty years, large scale urban development has grown to match the size of real estate investments and has become increasingly mixed in program, catering to the demand for the flexibilization of uses on the part of developers. The mixture of uses has generated very provocative theories in architecture and urban design but rarely have these speculations led to anything more than the celebration and intensification of the isolation of the mixed-use projects from their context and to the separation among the different components of these large scale developments. The timid and rather inarticulate typologies of such development provide further testament to the poverty of the designresponse to this important urban a