Beyoglu, I Will Survive! A map of collective memory in the context of radical urban transformations in Istanbul

Beyoglu has been shaped as the heart of the city, a historical and cultural hub with theaters, cinemas, bookstores, artisanal workshops, art galleries, restaurants, cafes, bars and music venues, gathering a variety of people from diverse backgrounds. However, a recent process of transformation, characterised by commercialization, depoliticization, gentrification projects and large scale, market-oriented urban development, has resulted in an increasing amount of memory places to disappear and the diverse and culturally rich Beyoglu to transform into a homogeneous space for consumerism and cultural consumption.

“Memory places” are the places with a unique identity and history, where social relationships happen and which shape the character of the area. Through this mapping project, we aimed to give these places visibility and highlight the fact that Beyoglu is losing them, one after another. At the same time, the map shows that some spaces remain and somehow a kind of resistance can be found in the area.

We designed the map in a participatory manner, by using the information collected through an online survey, questionnaires distributed in local shops and detailed interviews with local experts. We also had several walks in the area led by Yasar Adanali (urbanist) and Sinan Logie (architect) to understand the characteristics of the area and the variety of spaces. The map has three main parts: The places of memory in front and timeline and the stories on the back page. We pinned the memory spaces mentioned by the people and categorized them under; remains, transformed, moved and closed to reflect the dynamics of transformation. Apart from ‘places of memory’ we also added the mega projects and public spaces which are under control and commodification, to show the pressure in the area.

Memory is a powerful tool to encourage collective action, as it speaks to something that may unite citizens around a common issue. Therefore, the map can be used by local residents, activists, visitors, traditional users and newcomers as a tangible instrument for locating and recognizing the transformation of memory spaces in Beyoglu and hopefully to reclaim local identity and spatial justice in Beyoglu.

The project was held by Vasiliki Bourli, Merve Dadas and Mateus Lira during the internship period at the ‘Centre of Spatial Justice’ in Istanbul in March 2018. ‘Centre of Spatial Justice’ is a cross-disciplinary, independent institute which engages with a series of urban issues in Istanbul and other cities in Turkey. The team uses maps, videos and participatory tools to involve citizens and promote more just urban environments.