Taksim is ‘world’s ugliest square,’ Turkish PM says
İsmet Berkan Aboard ANA
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. AA Photo
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has described Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square as “the world’s ugliest square.”
“If anyone tells me that Taksim is a perfect square, then I would tell him that it is the world’s ugliest square,” Davutoğlu told a group of journalists aboard the prime ministerial ANA aircraft, returning to Ankara from an official trip to the northern province of Amasya on Oct. 19.
“I know about the squares in Venice and in Isfahan ... After seeing them, you feel yourself in a vacuum on Taksim Square,” he added, also labelling both Taksim’s Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) and neighboring hotel as “ugly.”
Davutoğlu referred to groups who he said “abused the Taksim problem,” while touching on to issue of urbanization in Istanbul.
The government’s controversial Taksim pedestrianization project had triggered widespread protests in May 2013 and was cancelled by Turkey’s Council of State earlier this year. The project for the politically-charged square involved the razing of the adjacent Gezi Park to be replaced by a rebuilt Ottoman-era Artillery Barracks.
“Taksim Square was not gradually developed as a culture, unlike in Venice and Isfahan. Incidentally, if Taksim had not been formed and a military barracks had not been built there, there wouldn’t even be a square,” Davutoğlu also said, adding that an Armenian cemetery had been located in the area in the past.
“I would say the barracks should not have been demolished in the first place. Although not pretty, they displayed the architecture of the time. But now, should the building be rebuilt after it was demolished? Not necessarily. These are matters that can be debated,” he said.
Davutoğlu also referred to the “Bloody Labor Day” demonstrations of 1977, in which more than 30 people died in a stampede in Taksim Square triggered by gunfire by assailants who remain unidentified. “This square shouldn’t be turned into a temple now because May Day happened there,” he said.
Amid ongoing concerns about Istanbul’s chronic urbanization and infrastructure problems, Davutoğlu stressed that he had instructed the related departments to not “allow the corruption of urban texture due to commercial interests.”
Click here to check our list of the Top 5 Politically Charged Squares in Istanbul.