Taksim Gezi Park is an urban park in Taksim Square, in Istanbul‘s Beyoğlu district. It is one of the smallest parks of Istanbul. In May 2013, plans to replace the park with a reconstruction of the former Taksim Military Barracks (demolished 1940) intended to house a shopping mall sparked the 2013 Taksim Gezi Park protests in Turkey.
At the grounds of today’s Taksim Gezi Park, a military barracks was constructed in 1806. Named the Halil Pasha Artillery Barracks (Turkish: Halil Paşa Topçu Kışlası), it was a grand building designed in Ottoman, Russian and Indian architectural style. The barracks suffered considerable damage during the 31 March Incident in 1909, and waited to be repaired.
In 1936, the French architect and city planner Henri Prost (1874–1959) was invited to Turkey by President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He was tasked with the preparation of Istanbul’s rough-cut urban planning, which lasted until 1951. In accordance with Prost’s planning, the barracks building was demolished in 1940 by the city governor and mayor Lütfi Kırdar (in office 1938–1949).
In the time before the demolition took place, the internal courtyard of the barracks was rearranged and used as the Taksim Stadium. Turkey national football team played their first ever official international match in this stadium against the German team on October 26, 1923 that ended up with a 2–2 draw.
Prost’s city plan, which came in 1939 into force, provided amongst others a large continuous green park, called Park No. 2, covering an area of 30 ha (74 acres) between the neighborhoods of Taksim, Nişantaşı and Maçka extending to Bosphorus including the Dolmahçe Valley. The large park was intended to offer recreation and green space to Istanbul’s residents as well as to the visitors when the city has grown further.
The contruction of the park was completed in 1943, and it was opened under the name “İnönü Park” in honor of the second president İsmet İnönü (in office 1938–1950) by Lütfi Kırdar personally. The covering area of the park diminished in later years with the building of big hotels in the zone. Nevertheless, the park remained an important recreational area within the downtown of the city, and its outlook changed often with restorations.
2013 resistance against redeveloping the site
From 28 May 2013, the plans of replacing Taksim Gezi Park with a reconstruction of the historic Taksim Military Barracks (demolished in 1940), with the possibility of housing a shopping mall. The protests developed into riots when a group occupying the park was attacked by police. The subjects of the protests have since broadened beyond the development of Taksim Gezi Park, developing into wider anti-government demonstrations. The protests have also spread to other cities in Turkey, and protests have been seen in other countries with significant Turkish communities.
In 31 May 2013, police suppressed the protesters with tear gas, arrested at least 60 people and injured hundreds. The police action received wide attention online. Protesters organized and gathered on İstiklal Avenue, reaching thousands on the night of 31 May.
‘Uncivilised’ Taksim Gezi Park plans spark Turkish Summer
A leading Turkish architects’ association has condemned the lack of consultation over controversial regeneration plans which sparked major protests in Istanbul last week as ‘anti-democratic’
The country’s equivalent of the RIBA commented as occupation of the city centre Taksim Gezi Park – reportedly threatened with demolition to make way for mixed-use redevelopment – entered its seventh day.
In a statement Association of Turkish Consulting Engineers and Architects said ‘participation of citizens in the decision-making process’ was the ‘most important requirement of modern and sustainable urban management’.
It warned failure to engage the public in the scheme represented an ‘unhealthy’ way to reshape cities and violated ‘social rights’.
Protest groups descended on the 30 hectare garden last Tuesday (28 May) after bulldozers uprooted trees in what was thought to be the start of work on the controversial Topçu Barracks Project.
The high-profile scheme backed by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reconstructs an historic barracks building which was demolished in 1940 to create the square. It is suggested the new building would include a shopping mall.
Taksim Protest Not Just About Turkey’s Trees at Gezi Park
Motivation behind Turkish demonstrations is more complicated than protection of public green space. Spotty media coverage blurs underlying causes; a real-life case of not seeing the forest for the trees.
Weeklong protests allegedly started over demolition of a popular Istanbul park – an issue we covered months ago here. Taksim Gezi Park site is earmarked for a new shopping mall. Urban development sparks protests the world over, so what blew this one to epic proportions?
A peaceful protest began in response to government actions viewed as favoring profit over people and nature. But, similar to “Occupy” movements and the Arab uprisings, the Taksim demonstrators embrace many distinct causes, there is no singular focus.
Sure, there are environmental mandates. There are demands for free speech and entitlement to nonviolent demonstration. There are pleas to maintain separation between secular government and majority religion. There are calls for greater protections for Turkish democracy and human rights.
And the elephant in the Square may be Turkey’s muzzled media, which is unable to report on it all. There are more journalists in jail in Turkey today than in any other country, and penalties are steep for broadcasting state-sensitive stories. Most of the news concerning the protests has come from social media which is fascinating but unreliable, beholden to the writer’s point of view.
When branded organizations join the fray, resultant media attention and self-promotion further skew the story.
Greenpeace sent Green Prophet an update saying that is has declared solidarity with the park protestors, demanding the right to peaceful protest and urging that people and planet come before private profit. They opened their offices, adjacent to the park, offering protesters first aid and a place to rest.