Şişli Arcades

IMPERFECT TYPOLOGY

The hearth of Şişli today stands as an urban realm  representative of a decayed modernism. It was initially laid out in the early Republican times as a natural extension of late Ottoman boulevard, Grand Rue de Pera, today’s Istiklal Caddesi. From Taksim square  stretching out all the way to once an isolated village, now a disastrous urban conglomeration -Mecidiyeköy-, the Modern Boulevard is one of the very few if not the only which deserves the status of an urban boulevard, with its decisive spatial character, its sidewalks ands its alignement to urban topography.

 

Between 1950’s and 80’s, there were a number of passages built with direct access to the boulevard. Although being relatives of those on Grand Rue de Pera -based on the 19th century French typology-, these passages are not quite as spacious and inviting. Located on the street level of modernist apartment blocks, they could only offer compressed dark spaces for the street strollers. Most of them are blind appendixes to the street, seldom providing pedestrian shortcuts to a back street. Nevertheless, they were once  popular shopping hang-outs for the well-to-do citizens of Istanbul. Like many modernist urban annex, Şişli, the overall district has deteriorated gradually as the early 20th century enthusiasm has been put off by the emerging post modern sentiment. By the time the shopping malls have arrived, the passages have already lost some of their initial attraction. After that, the fall was abrupt.

 

Today, the passages of Şişli are products of a troubled -imperfect- typology. They barely survive evoking melancholy with their haunted, ragged interiors, half empty, half occupied by out-of-date businesses. Such a sweet but delicate atmosphere, a hint or a recollection of a lost childhood is about to be atrociously destroyed by a wild entrepreneur, giving it an ultimate blow for the substitution of a fitter, profitable option; a hotel, a high-end office complex or a contemporary retail chain.

 

Such a practice of starting each time from scratch, never letting anything to age is a pathology that has been washing Istanbul off its patina incrementally each day till nothing is left to culturally relate to. There is almost no resistance to anything coming new; no tolerance to anything imperfect. The moment a problem emerges, it has to be fixed without hesitation; no time for reflecting, understanding and experimenting. The subject, problem definition and solution; they collapse onto eachother: The same person, the same problem, the same solution. It is resolved as soon as it is defined. The question has not been asked to elaborate, but to conceal.

 

In the face of such a totology, we have chosen to assume for ourselves a version of conservatism. The plan is to propose a delay in the process: To give a second chance to these passages for a possibility of new energy before they are gone for good. Therefore we are proposing a documentary elaborating questions on a misfit, out of date urban typology. As a parallel event, we are developing ideas on a guerilla act as the sign of our questions: A pop-up mobile restaurant organisation temporally taking place in the space of the passages. We are thinking of another out of date phenomena to couple with it; Street food and good coffee. It would be a conglomeration of various food stations and a common eating area temporarily occupying the ragged corridors and atriums…. (please feel free to elaborate on this with ideas from ‘food on architecture’)