ID: 03
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30 March 2011 Wednesday, 17:00 - 18:30
Hall: Dolmabahce Hall

Type: Panel Discussion
Organizers: İstanbul Maltepe Yalı District Urban Renewal Association

Architecture and real estate development in Turkey do not have a long history. Most serious examples of architecture built in Turkey in the 20th century were primarily public sector government sponsored or motivated projects. Up through the 1970s even well known architectural projects serving private interests such as the Istanbul Hilton, Ataköy housing complex, İ.M.Ç were a part of government program or administration. Since the history of real estate development in Turkey is in itself quite brief, the role of architecture inside this sector is even less so. 

Expansion of the Turkish economy in the 1980s saw the first significant architectural projects built by real estate developers. Turget Cansever's Demir Evleri, Bodrum, 1983-1991, Mercan and Platin Konutları, 1990's, Behruz Çinici, and Milli Reasürans Complex 1988- 1992 Teşvikiye, Sevinç Hadi, Şandor Hadi were some of the few but meaningful architectural projects developed in this era. Moving into the 1990s a whole new class of now more experienced and worldly real estate developers sensitive to architecture began to emerge. Groups such as Maya, Yapi Merkezi and the newly formed Kemer Yapi started to elevate the role of architecture as a means to add both aesthetic value and more importantly as places for a new urban lifestyle with market value. These groups enlisted both local and international architects to achieve this reorganization of architecture and commercial worth that made the architectural project an important part of the commercial offering of the overall project. 

Since the 1990s until today there has been a continued growth of important architectural projects built by Turkey’s first generation of professional real estate developers. The first building boom of the late 1990s and the 2nd major boom in the late 2000s especially in housing and shopping projects has created a highly competitive atmosphere for developers. Where once there were a few well known architects involved in these projects, we can see today that many of the major architects in Turkey are all involved with real estate development at all levels. As Turkey’s economy expands the demand for housing, office, retail and tourism projects has outstripped even the ability of these architects to keep up with the demand. Top shelf contemporary architects such as Emre Arolat Architects, Tabanlioglu Architects, Han Tumertekin, Nevzat Sayin and Can Cinici who have all had significant projects built by real estate developers have been joined by international names such as Foreign Office Architects, Philippe Starck, Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster to meet the demand for architecturally oriented real estate development in Turkey. 

What was once a luxury, architecture, is now today a must in many projects all over Turkey. The question today though is what exactly is the purpose of architecture in real estate development? Why is there a need for a higher standard of architecture? From the developer’s side the simple answer would be to say that a proven architectural name gives a project more credibility to potential customers as a mark of high quality development and a justification for higher pricing. Furthermore there is also the need for iconic pieces of architecture, buildings that could provide attractive marketable images in marketing material and publicity as an easy way to generate general awareness. (It is interesting to note that for another large group of projects for, example, most of the housing projects on the TEM corridor of Istanbul, iconic architecture of attractive images is paired with some kind of fantastic project name to give the project a marketable design identity with no mention of the anonymous architects at all.) It would not be exaggerating to say that most real estate developers in Turkey primarily enlist architects for these two reasons, credibility and publicity. As Turkey grows and develops architecture needs to play a more important role in our built environment. Up until now its application has been few and far between with the pace of economic and commercial momentum more important then architecture itself. Globally Turkey is not alone in this vibrant, real estate development climate as similar dynamics can be see in China, the Arab states, Southeast Asia, etc where demand has outpaced the ability of the architectural sector to meet it. Urbanism has taken the driver’s seat with architects trying to catch up. 

Turkey today needs a more complex and sophisticated appraisal of the role of architecture in real estate to address the needs of our rapidly developing society. Individual gain, profit, shareholder value are all important but the question of the quality of the built environment possible through architecture is a basic, structural issue that needs to be taken into account if we are to sustain growth in the long run. Our cities are getting too big, transportation and energy expenses to high, land use cost to difficult to ignore the potential of architecture to address these problems. Of course architects can not solve all these problems by themselves but the fact is that more advanced architectural and urban strategies are needed then the ones being offered by the real estate development sector in Turkey today. 

But what good is architecture to a real estate developer beyond credibility and publicity? 

The simple answer is this, architecture is a performative discipline, an architecture that performs well in its design can have a major impact on construction and operation that goes well beyond the value provided by credibility and publicity. For example, energy efficient building which reduces energy costs in the long run can provide a serious value to a potential customer that is a major selling point. Beyond this, innovative design strategies leading to more efficient construction can again reduce the overall cost of the project. And lastly, benefits to ecologic and cultural sustainability can gain developers the kind of good will and leverage with government and the people that makes their efforts to realize their projects easier and gives them the kind of cultural capital that can not be bought by cash. 

Architecture and real estate development in Turkey has had a short history, but today it seems the relationship needs to be cemented to achieve the kind of success necessary for Turkey as it grows into a regional and global power serving as a sustainable model for other countries and geographies. 

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