Let’s open this architectural design competition again

Let’s open this architectural design competition again

The idea of building a mosque on the top of Istanbul’s Çamlıca hill came from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Nobody had such a thing in mind.

It should be such a mosque that it will become the symbol of Istanbul and, at the same time, be so colossal that it will be easily visible to those passing through the Bosphorus.

It was an ambitious idea. As soon as the prime minister uttered this, preparations began immediately.

A structure to accommodate 30,000 people was considered first. Then it was said that so many people would not come to the mosque except on Fridays and that new roads needed be built to Çamlıca. But these issues were not taken into consideration.

The mosque to be built should make people say, years later, “This giant mosque was built during Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s era.”

Well, I can understand everything up to here, but I can’t understand anything from here on.

Üsküdar Municipality rolled up its sleeves with good intentions. A mosque-building association opened a design project, drawing 62 projects. No foreigner was interested. The grand prize for the winner, for 300,000 Turkish Liras, was an extremely modest figure anyway.

The judges couldn’t choose a winning project. Two projects were given second and third place, with one of them being declared “applicable.”

I’m not going to discuss here whether the chosen project was a copy of the Sultanahmet Mosque. I’m sure the two architects created a beautiful design like they wanted to.

What I want to emphasize is that such a prestigious project has been chosen from among local projects that have no innovation, charm or anything beyond the usual lines and dimensions.

The wrong method has been used: In order to create such prestigious structures, a giant architectural design contest should have been opened; a few million dollars’ worth of prizes should have been given. Famous architects from around the world should be invited and an utterly different mosque should have been erected at the top of Çamlıca that would dazzle every passerby.

Now, that would have been amazing. Muslims would have watched it with admiration and foreigners would have felt the need to have a picture taken in front of it.

This must be done again. It is a project that is beyond local measure. Let’s stop thinking small.

Are the mothers forgotten after 100 weeks?
This Saturday, those who have lost relatives in custody will meet at Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square for the 400th time. The group, known as the “Saturday Mothers,” met Prime Minister Erdoğan 100 weeks ago.

The Saturday Mothers had begun to cry out loud during the darkest days of the 1990s: “Give me back my child!” Years, months, police clubs, pepper gas, insults and detentions came and went. Many Saturdays passed. The mothers have reached their 400th week. They don’t want revenge. They only demand to know where the graves of their relatives are and ask for justice.

Thanks to their resistance, “disappearing while in custody” stopped being a state policy. When Erdoğan met them for two hours at his office at Dolmabahçe Palace, he told them he would do whatever possible. Some 100 weeks have passed since then. This Saturday at noon, the mothers are again at Galatasaray Square, holding up the photos of their lost relatives with an eternal pain in their hearts.

And they will ask once more, “What happened so far? Esteemed Prime Minister, did you, too, forget us?”