At 1 : 200,000 scale, Taksim Square and Gezi Park appear as a speck of dust in comparison to the vast expanse of 5,343 square kilometers that is Istanbul. However, the significance of the square and park can be highlighted when mapping out key information from the city.
Istanbul strides between two continents divided by the Bosphorus, which connects the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea. On both sides of the Bosphorus the topography is characterized by steep hills that emerge out of the sea. Due to this demanding geography Istanbul’s primary public transportation system is a complex network of metro lines, trams, buses, metrobuses, ferries, and funiculars. Taksim square is at the epicenter of this network linking the various modes of transportation. It is the central transportation hub hosting over a million commuters a day.
In 2013, the Marmaray tunnel was inaugurated as the first railway connection to link the two sides of the city. Consequently, Taksim Square can further anticipate an increase in its use and prominence. It can therefore be seen that the city is growing outwards in reference to Taksim Square, as it continues to grow supporting the ever-increasing migrant population.
Gezi Park stands as a modest size park at only 38,000m². While, this may seem an insignificant size when seen in the scale of the larger city, it is easily noticeable that it is one of the very few inner city parks that exist. To the naked eye, Istanbul appears very lush and green especially if you look at the vast rolling hills on the northern areas. However, according to the research by American Standards, for the 14.1 million residents of Istanbul there are only 2470 recreational areas, which is a mere 1.53 m² recreational area per person.
Not only is this lower than the recommended 10sqm/person, it is significantly less In comparison to the major cities across Europe. Highlighted by the Unit Park Area Ratio, Istanbul’s 1.53 m²/person is belittling compared to the 27 m²/person for London, 45.5 m²/person for Amsterdam, and a whooping 87.5 m²/person in Stockholm. The European Green City Index also confirms that Istanbul needs to reconsider its environmental policies as it ranks 25th out of 30 European cities.
Kerem Ateş, the general secretariat for the Turkish Environmental and Woodlands Protection Society, or TÜRÇEK, points out that green areas in Istanbul were being marked for construction through rapid zoning changes in recent years.
"The green spaces of Istanbul are about to become extinct. Istanbul is practically being left without oxygen. There is a great effect from the lack of trees and uncontrolled urbanization in these sub-Saharan temperatures experienced in summer."
Istanbul got their first fix of mass scale consumerism in the form of a shopping mall when Atakoy Galleria opened in 1988. Since then the total number of shopping malls in Turkey has grown from a modest 106 in 2005 to a staggering 334 in 2012 and is expected to surpass 400 by sometime in 2014. This will put Turkey, a country with a population of 74million, at par with the total numbers of shopping malls in the US, which has a population of 314 million.
The advancement of Internet shopping and a sheer excess of retail properties has seen the US shopping mall typology in decline, as indicated by the fact that there has not been a new shopping mall built since 2007 with the exception of one in Salt Lake City. In contrast, the number of malls in Turkey has risen by 400% since 2002 and Istanbul alone already accounts for around 180 shopping malls.
The general director of the Confederation of Turkey’s Craftsmen and Artisans (TESK), Bendevi Palandöken has stressed that the sudden dominance of shopping malls all over Turkey’s urban landscape is neither rational nor economically viable. He declared that “This question is not a matter of today, but a fact resulting from years of [conducting business] in the same unplanned manner without any programme [or agenda]”, going on to say that