Itís been a tough year for preservationists in Turkey, with disputes over Istanbulís Gezi Park
and a motorway in Ankara
. But now -- perhaps -- thereís something to cheer.
On Tuesday, the Fourth Administrative Court in Istanbul ruled that the developer, Astay Real Estate Construction Investment Company, must remove the top three levels from three skyscrapers in a scheme called Onaltidokuz Residences. The judge said the firm has to remove the floors from the towers in the Zeytinburnu district because they spoil views of the 16th century Suleymaniye Mosque on the cityís Bosphorus peninsula.
This is the latest legal decision about the controversial trio of towers. In May, the court ruled that they did not comply with planning permission because they were too high, and said the plans were not comprehensive enough. It also highlighted that they had a negative impact on views of the Sulemaniye quarter, which is a World Heritage Site.
The Suleymaniye Mosque close up. Skyscrapers are ruining the view from the Bosphorus Strait.
(Source: xiquinhosilva via Flickr)
The Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- the guy who told environmental protestors to live in forests away from cities -- said earlier this year that he had asked Mesut Toprak, president of Astay, to give the buildings a ďhaircutĒ but nothing has been done. If Astay does not appeal the courtís latest decision, then the top floors will have to be torn down. The court ruled that the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality must enforce the demolition of the floors that are still visible behind the mosque within 30 days.
This sounds like good news. The court has ruled that the towers should be shortened to protect the historic view of Istanbul from the Bosphorus Strait. But if these skyscrapers are illegal and should be torn down, as the court ruled in May, then is shortening them really enough? There is still a strong argument to take them down completely.
People in a lot of cities wonít understand why Iím so bothered about protected views, but I like them. I like the fact that the planning system can take steps to protect a cityís history. Iím comfortable that commercial and residential developers should make allowances for doing that. Iíve spent almost seven years working at UBM, in an office with a good view of St Paulís Cathedral, which benefits from protected views.
London isnít the only city with protected views, of course. Edinburgh, San Francisco, and Vancouver are among other cities that have them too. They can be a good way to make sure that a developerís towering ambitions arenít realized to the detriment of the city.
I donít think developers have any excuse if their scheme damages a protected view. The architectural software available to them can deliver stunning renderings showing in detail what a proposed development is going to look like before it is finished. Developers should be able to show what impact their schemes will have on protected views before they start construction, and city planning departments should demand that they do so.
What of the Onaltidokuz Residences in Istanbul? Technology is available to make sure these problems donít happen. If it wasnít used, or if the constructed towers do not comply with the approved plans, then the city has the right to demand action and make sure it is enforced. It isnít enough for the developer to say: ďBut Iíve built them now.Ē
I donít know what is the right solution in this case. Perhaps reducing the towers will be enough to protect the view of the skyline from the Bosphorus Strait. If it is then thatís great, but I doubt that shaving off a few floors will be enough to protect the view.
Whatever happens here, itís good to see a court standing up to a developer to protect the cityís history. A protected view is only protected if there are people protecting it.
— Rich Heap, Community Editor, UBM's Future Cities