Istanbul, forbidden to meet in Taksim Square

The municipality of Istanbul called the studio I.N.D. for the project of a temporary pavilion, but its dismantlement has already been planned.

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has recently installed a temporary pavilion in Taksim square. Branded as “Meeting Stop”, it was conceived as a space for debate and confrontation throughout the ongoing square redesign process.

Designed by I.N.D. studio, the steel and wood structure is composed of two specular tiers which create an open platform for events while also sheltering an underlying exhibition space.

Only two days after the inauguration, however, Istanbul’s Heritage Protection Board declared that the structure lacks permission and must be removed. It seems that it will soon be relocated to a more peripheral district.

Behind this legal dispute, we may well read the tension between the Municipal administration – run by the opposition party since last year – and the central government for the symbolic and physical control over the square.

The first exhibition hosted in the pavilion, titled “Taksim, Istanbul’s Heart” and curated by the Centre for Istanbul Studies, retells the square’s eventful history presenting events such as the Gezi riots and the annual Pride parade (prohibited since 2016).

The so-called “Digital Exhibition Centre”, a tent-like structure hosting a propaganda exhibition on the failed coup attempt and ensuing “victory of democracy”, will be removed as well. The structure, managed by Ankara’s government, has been in the square for months, without attracting the overzealous attention the Protection Board reserved for the pavilion.

Just as the removal order came out, the verdict of the Gezi trial was announced: all present defendants – key figures from civil society, including the Chamber of Architect’s director, Mücella Yapıcı – were acquitted. During the 2013 demonstrations, Taksim’s name had become synonymous with opposition to the government.

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