Rosewater Revitalisation is an urban agriculture / gecekondu upgrading project designed by Padraig McMorrow (of University College Dublin and the University of Stuttgart) for Gülsuyu / Gülensu gecekondu neighborhoods in Maltepe District of Istanbul. For his work, Padraig was awarded an honorable mention at AECOM’s The Urban SOS: Transformations competition, an international student competition with more than 200 entries.
Gülensu/Gülsuyu are two adjacent gecekondu neighborhoods, situated to the north of the E-5 highway of Istanbul. At the the end of the 1950s, the first new arrivals from Anatolia chose the empty hillside because of its proximity to the industrial zone on the Asian side of the city, Maltepe. With a kind of reverse urbanism, the structures in this area were built on state-owned land by migrants from the eastern provinces of the country. Squatting on public lands generated comparatively low density, detached single-storey houses. As the houses were built with ad hoc solutions, these new comers survived in the city with the help of solidarity networks.
Later amnesties for the gecekondu neighborhoods paved the way to a new urban process. Apartmentalization first began with the most accessible gecekondus; the less accessible ones were of lower material quality. Located on the periphery of Istanbul, especially after the Kartal Urban Transformation project of the Greater Municipality of Istanbul, the inhabitants of these neighborhoods now find themselves on the ‘most wanted list’ of the real estate market. High accessibility to sub-city centers, inspiring topography, attractive scenery and location in an earthquake safe zone provide Gülensu/Gülsuyu with a strong market pressure. Their resistance is due solely to their still functioning solidarity networks. However, after apartmentalization, the solidarity networks have tended to dissolve. To a certain extent, religion (Alevilik) and political consciousness keep their network alive. What makes the market demands so overwhelming is the absence of any public programs concerning social sustainability. The authorities mostly serve as the moderator of the market and their complex financial models always ends up with the displacement of the local inhabitants. In one of the interviews, they expressed their discontent about the urban poor ‘occupying’ such a precious location. With such an immersion in neo-liberal policies, to advocate an alternative social agenda ensuring the ‘Right to the City’ for all urban dwellers should get the priority among urban issues. (See Istanbul Living in Voluntary and Involuntary Exclusion)
Padraig’s idea project is a refreshing contribution for high-in-need discussions on alternative social agendas. You can click on the images to enlarge them.