Thursday, October 24, 2013

Erdogan's Monumental Building

The Economist reports on new infrastructure projects in Turkey:
Abdul Mejid I, the Ottoman’s 31st sultan, had a dream. Reigning between 1839 and 1861, the determinedly Western-leaning sultan envisaged the construction of a submerged tunnel under the Bosphorus Straits connecting Asia to Europe. A French architect duly came up with a blueprint. But a dearth of technology and cash stood in the way.
The sultan’s dream is now coming true, 150 years later. The world’s first sea tunnel linking two continents will be inaugurated on October 29th, marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of Ataturk’s Republic. Stretching over 76km (47 miles), and with 1.4km of it laid at the bottom of the sea, the $3 billion “Marmaray” rail system will “eventually link London to Beijing, creating unimagined global connections” boasts Mustafa Kara, mayor of Istanbul’s Uskudar district, where the tunnel comes out...
AK’s projects, which have included hundreds of hospitals and roads, have earned it the unwavering support of millions of rural Anatolians, long ignored by the country’s secular elites. But Mr Erdogan’s grandiose projects, being pushed through with little if any public debate, including building Turkey’s biggest-ever mosque, on Istanbul’s Asian side, are increasingly seen as a sign of hubris.
According to the article, Turkey's opposition see many of these projects, including the proposed Ottoman-themed Gezi Park shopping center at the center of the recent protests, as being all about Erdogan remaking the landscape.  It focused a lot on the environmental damage done by these development projects.  I'd guess plenty of well-connected people are also getting rich off of them, since under the AKP Turkey's cities have seen quite a bit of what scholars call "neoliberal urbanism," or the privatization of public space.



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