The identity of a mature Turkey
Istanbul became the junction point on international waterways in the 19th century. Before anything else, the Suez Canal had drawn a portion of the heavy traffic in the northeast Atlantic to this region. Other than that, Russia and the Danube basin’s entry to the Mediterranean traffic also created an effect.
As a safe port, Istanbul became more than a place where ships merely anchored in the Golden Horn and its basin and disembarked with rowboats. Passenger liners started docking at Galata Port.
In that period, the new republic built its first work, which was necessitated by the increased passenger traffic. A passenger lounge that suited the city was built in accordance with a project by the architect Rebii Gordon.
Instantly, this passenger lounge became an indispensable part of Istanbul’s life and history. The customs were here; the police were here. Together with the passenger lounge, its neighborhood, Karaköy, was immediately filled with interesting restaurants and shops. People started pouring in here from all corners of the world.
For instance, in the 1940s, when the members of the Ottoman dynasty were banned from entering Turkey, the wife of the Egyptian crown prince, Neslişah Sultan, entered the lounge, and a spontaneous scene erupted. There were those who saluted her and welcomed her saying, “Welcome to your country,” as well as there were certain others who were grumbling at a distance. Nevertheless, the fact and the image that Turkey was now an experienced and mature country became almost synonymous with this hall.
If we portrayed all those who passed through Gorbon’s passenger lounge, it would be similar to New York’s Ellis Island. At the end of World War II, refugees coming from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and statesmen and leaders coming from Middle Eastern countries made this place one of Istanbul’s most vivid venues to the unfolding of history.
Dangerous liaisons occurred here
It is a known fact that Istanbul has always been and continues to be the production center of Turkey. We were not a rich country, but the most possible flamboyant consumption passed through here. This lounge has seen very chic ladies with all their heavy jewelry either going abroad or traveling to other ports, as well as all others who have arrived from overseas with their massive luggage.
The Karaköy Passenger Lounge was, at the same time, where “dangerous” business occurred. The paparazzi of the time would observe how certain gentlemen cheated on their wives and traveled to Europe with their lovers. As a matter of fact, this lounge was the venue where you could see how the lifestyle, life and moral values of the Turkish community degraded with the winds of the time. Well before the newspapers reported, other passengers on the boat would whisper from ear to ear what they had seen.
Times have changed, and airline travel took the place of cruises. The ships then came to primarily be used by Eastern European and Russian passengers who were engaged in what is called the suitcase trade.
With this, the Karaköy Passenger Lounge again turned into a venue where you could come across similar scenes. The surroundings were again filled with restaurants that tourists frequented before their travels and shops where they did their last shopping.
Could have continued
Then, the Galataport Project came. No matter what, this building that was built by the famous architect Rebii Gorbon at the beginning of 1940s should have been protected. It was no threat to the changing port functions; it could have continued its existence by adapting to the surroundings.
But, as in other examples, it was easily demolished. We can say that those who demolished this building are almost taking revenge for previously demolished good-looking buildings. Each architect who coarsely erects a new building in place of the old in Istanbul should draw a lesson from this last episode.
Those who used to do business in the past were repeatedly said to be “bureaucrats who were estranged to the people, as well as so-called intellectuals.” But those who are doing the same business now are said to have come right from the core of the people. Moreover, their methods are extremely insensitive.
It looks as if the Galataport Project is a giant rake which will rapidly winnow down the surroundings. Don’t rejoice that the shores will “all be open to the public.” Take a look into what is going to be built. Nobody exactly knows the plans. Shouldn’t these kind of demolition and rebuilding operations be declared and debated with the residents of the city?