28 Kasım 2008 Cuma

Parks As A Public Space In The Early Republican Period In Turkey

Bu makale daha once şurada kullanıldı. "Public Space in Early Republic Period in Turkey”, invited for the reading and documantation table (by Pelin Tan); exhibition "UrbanreViews: Istanbul", curator Vasif Kortun. IFA Galleries (Stuttgardt - Berlin), 2004

The aim of this paper is to observe the production of public spaces in the early republican period and to conceive the historical background of this intellectual transformation with the consideration that the public spaces —but also spaces in general— are defined and produced within the ideological structures. Parks, as a specific and important example of public spaces, were researched in order to understand the complexity of social facts and intellectual structure of this period.
Another reason of choosing parks as a topic is its opportunity as an architectural product to include all social actors. The setting apart of cultural, aesthetic and scientific senses of nature in order to comprehend it ends up with assigning varied symbolic values to it. The usage and the perception of space is differentiated by these values. This differentiation gives us the opportunity to comprehend the social structure within the relationships between the trilogy of politics-ideology-architecture and the space. How do the actors who participate in production and consumption of spaces as designers, employers or consumers define and internalize those places? In other words, how do the actors shape public spaces and act in them? Evaluating those questions may assist us to comprehend some important aspects of social history of Turkey.
The fact that urban planning activities in the early republican period set off with an ‘instance’ or a ‘model’ renders these activities quite different than the western ones. The disregard of the reality that the models themselves were not realized according to a social model of which development is foreseeable and controllable might render this fact advantageous. However, the western city which is the model has been a product of various contradictory and spontaneous facts developed through the ages. That is to say, the reality which has been taken as a model displays a specific structure for each society.
In Turkey, at least in the beginning, urban modernization is a process of resembling the western cities. This transformation starting in the late Ottoman period and reflecting both a continuity and a radical break with the past becomes the official urban politics of the state in the early republican period. A clear instance of these politics is the production of parks where the social and the political intersects. Parks are mostly located on the main street, next to the city hall and the square of city including a statue in order to emphasize the image of the republican city. So, it is possible to state that the urban image of the republic is strongly related to the park.
Essentially, the ideology of the republic aims to change the form of the self definition of Turkish society and present a new alternative identity. It seems that the statement “we’ve founded Italy, now it’s the turn of the Italians” made by an Italian parliamentarian at the end of the process of nation-becoming were accepted by bureaucratic bourgeoisie in the early republican period. The republican’s strive to create citizens and provide them with a modern identity took place of the struggle of the modernization of governmental structure in the late Ottoman period.
The differences between the requirements of ideological missions and their expression in practice has given a specific character to the early republican parks. In fact, the parks have never been considered as an architectural or design issue neither in late Ottoman period nor in early republican period. There are no documents indicating the opposite. In both periods, but especially in the early republican period, the goal was the sole ‘existence’ of parks which means their ideological significance was more crucial than their architectural and urban significance. Many parks have been built in Anatolia in those years, however Tanyeli reveals that these parks were not functional spaces for small Anatolian towns which were still embedded in their natural environment at that time. Their real function was to render a society to internalize this new and western fact which was unknown, unnecessary and useless to them. In other words, while urban spaces was re-formed according to the new ideology public green spaces played their role within this meta-narrative. This fact refashioned the parks, like other architectural products, as fields of ideological exercise. State creates and uses spaces, it is symbolized by spaces and communicates through them. Public space is an instrument which expresses and legitimizes power. For this reason, it is difficult to conceive parks as autonomous architectural creations; instead they are the products of hegemonic political relations.
As Sargın indicated; state and institutions representing state power, apparatuses responsible for the safety and continuity of the state, foci producing political discourses, local administrations, intellectual environments and similar secular and religious formations as centers of power revealing how the city should be are main locations which shape the urban structure [and give its meaning]. These locations try to define the objective space according their own agenda. In this context, Republic’s one of the most important spatial strategy is to turn the vast country into the space of national state or into a stage exposing the symbols of the power.
In 1935, Journal of Municipalities asked for various information from provincial and regional administrations in order to publish and visual materials exemplifying parks within the borders of province are also included. In the following issues, the journal publicized the municipalities which have responded the request. The most interesting among the materials sent by the municipalities is a photograph of a city park from Çıldır, a regional municipality from the province Kars. The photograph is taken from a point of view showing the whole of the park. It’s surrounded with a wooden fence and titled as ‘city park’ in the journal. The most striking part is the dimensions; approximately 5x5 meters. This exemplifies very well that the urban elements are imagined according to the claims of Sargın.
Certainly, the political system of the early republican period cannot be reduced entirely to the cultural politics discussed above. In fact, it includes certain elements that exceeds and contradicts the system. Yet these politics determined the way in which system reflects, refashions and represents itself. The beginning of the process of formation of the new social relationships and definition of practices which would guarantee the continuity of these formations by the ruling elite is crucial in the creation of these politics. On the other hand, existing cultural patterns were reactivated as political agents through new meanings and forms. This fact was expressed by the ‘official’ discourse of state in an issue of the Journal of Municipalities with an article entitled “Sports/People’s Game Parks in Uraylar” as follows: “Despite some exceptions most parks in the old times were too fancy and majestic and they could only satisfy the needs of a very small portion of the community. That fit most people’s ambition to be admired by one person and their desire for material benefits. However, the passage of the sovereignty from one person to the society and the fact that the people has gained the same rights have expressed themselves also with the parks. That changed their essence and truth radically. Parks were embellished and majestic but useless until that turning point in history. They had become valuable and useful for the nation since the day they were given to the society. It’s not an easy and simple task to free people from material ambitions. (...) There is only one mean and form where people and nature meet: People’s Game Parks. Things taken without an explanation and unjustly by former generation from their own people should be given back to the people according to the needs of time. It could be said that a monument suitable to our time will be produced by the possession of People’s Game Parks.” The article exemplifies how parks have been instrumentalized as a medium by political discourse. Government benefits from architecture as an ideological medium. Space/park was used as a hidden or open propaganda tool of power.
Certainly, the state also has an aesthetical expression. For Tekeli, besides being a profession or discipline architecture is perhaps the most powerful metaphor of the project of modernity with its connotations of ‘rational structure or construction activities’. In another article in one of the magazines of the period it was stated that “The tenant mind of the older government naturally would not continue in the republican period. Today courthouses, hospitals, post offices, institutions are built all over the country. It’s impossible not to see that the country is becoming a huge construction site with railways, paved roads, bridges, factories and buildings. It’s very important that this huge construction site should work within a good discipline. A building resembles a machine with its facilities like water, heating, telephone, sanitary and electricity. If one of them is fixed poorly or wrongly the machine stops working.” These statements reveal that the natural spaces have also been taken as a medium and located in the urban setting as a component of the ideological structure. The more ideology becomes visualized and aestheticized parks get more important for their communication value not for use value.
The issue how the parks would be aestheticized was a matter of secondary importance. In fact, the governmental bodies of the period were not interested in the specific discourses of architecture. Therefore, they instrumentalized architecture and were indifferent to its problematics except its ideological usefulness. Nether the preference of modernist architecture nor the architects and the educators who came to Turkey were results of conscious architectural strategy.
The enlightenment positivism of the republican elite legitimizes their mission as leaders of the society. They pushed the urban transformation with their role as social leaders. They carried out their public responsibilities still with their hundred years old habit as social engineers. The initiators of the vast urban transformations have always been the representatives of the state in those cities (governor, mayor, kaimaqam etc.). The foundation of İzmir Kültürpark in 1936 is a good example. Behçet Uz, the mayor of the city, asserted that Kültürpark should be a sort of ‘public university’. It’s clear that instead the recreational function of the park which was almost overlooked the ‘intellectual’ education of the people was crucial. According to Tanyeli these concerns were connected to the early republican ideology of educating and ‘upbringing’ the masses. Selecting the Moscow parks as models for Kültürpark expresses the power of this social commitment.
While the main urban stage of republic has being set in Ankara, the importance of its physical and social role and of its role as an example for other cities was discussed. Gençlik Park was another important element in this context; it’d play a primary role with its design. The design of Gençlik Park had two important components; water and nature, significant symbols in a sparsely vegetated plain. The claims of transforming those plains into a ‘paradise’ were also repeated during the foundation of Atatürk Orman Çiftliği. The striking thing was that nearly all of the parks in big cities took Gençlik Park as a model with similar elements and repeated same ‘heavenly’ assertions constantly. For instance, Karaalioğlu Park in Antalya was built by similar assertions with a huge pool in it.
The transformation of nature with the claim which is usually stated in Turkey as “creating a paradise out of a dry plain” has also become an objective of political power in Europe since the baroque period.

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