The European Spatial Development Planning Network Intensive Program Ankara 2014

With 25 years of experience behind, the European Spatial Development Planning Network (ESPD) offers once a year a comprehensive intensive program on planning on the ground, that includes theoretical insights, the collection of data and the development of proposals for planning in a given city. The strong point of the program is its interdisciplinarity, with the participation of sociologists, architects, urban planners and geographers, both as tutors and as students. During two weeks, the students receive lessons on theoretical approaches to planning, are introduced to the city and to specific areas that act as case studies, they collect empirical information in this areas and finally, they develop their proposals for intervention. The students are grouped in different teams and work on specific aspects of the areas, including social sustainability, environmental sustainability and governance. After the first week of theoretical lessons and data collection, the second is mainly focused on the critical analysis of the situation and the discussion and preparation of proposals, with the support of the tutors, which guide the whole process.

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The program has been developed in different European cities on a biannual basis throughout its 25 years of existence. This year I have had the great luck and opportunity to participate as a tutor in the current edition of the IP in Ankara. There, students analysed and made proposals for two areas of the city: The Dikmen Valley and the Ankara Citadel. Both cases are affected by current trends of development of the city, with public administration pressing for expelling population of squatted areas in order to build brand new buildings to substitute the self-made houses (geçekondus, which mean made by night).

Dikmen Valley: improving and expelling?

The first case study was the Dikmen Valley, a vast area squatted long time ago in which the municipality planned an integral urban reform that started in 1989 and it is not still finished (only three out of five phases have been developed until the moment). The project foresaw the resettlement of geçekondu inhabitants in flats and the creation of a large urban park with tall buildings as the new urban architecture. Nevertheless, most of the inhabitants have left the area due to gentrification processes and the urban park has been criticised by its lack of connectivity with the rest of the city and its artificiality. The remaining population living in Geçekondular have organised themselves against the current trends and are opposing to current urban renewal processes.

Ankara Citadel: gentrification, tourism and poverty

The Ankara Citadel is one of the few touristic attractions of the city. It was the centre of the city until the reform and modernisation of the city after its proclamation of the Turkish republic in 1923. By that time the old city centre had declined and had suffered a fire which affected the urban infrastructure. The new plans wanted officially preserve the citadel, but they brought its further decay. With the increase of population pressure since the fifties and sixties, the area was settled by rural immigrants illegally, with the apparition of Geçekondular. In the eighties the local government redefined the official limits of the city centre, excluding the citadel. Since then special plans for conserving the heritage were enforced and the increasing interest on tourism created a new pressure to the Citadel. Nowadays its inhabitants face the pressures derived from increasing tourism and the interest of real estate sectors in acquiring housing stock in the area for commercial purposes.

Analysis and proposals

After two weeks of work, IP students developed solutions and proposals for improving the two areas from the point of view of governance, social and environmental sustainability. In Dikmen, the working groups launched proposals for improving the involvement of geçekondular inhabitants in decision-making and planning processes, the urban renewal of already existing geçekondular and the creation of new centralities to reinforce social life in the Dikmen Valley and increasing the biodiversity of the park and taking profit of its environmental resources such as the fact that it is an air corridor.

In the citadel the diagnostic of the different working groups was on the need to empower the community, and the proposals for urban planning were mainly in this direction, creating new spaces for socialisation and learning such as libraries or urban gardens, improving transport and connectivity with the rest of the city or empowering the social economy for the community in order to be able to counterbalance the current hegemonic actors  (the large real estate companies and tourism business) and to negotiate with the public administration as a collective actor.

Conclusions

For the students, the Intensive Program experience is useful not only in terms of learning how to develop proposals and to work with on the ground information, but also as a way to learn how to work in interdisciplinar and intercultural groups. For tutors is a way to learn as well. We have the opportunity to exchange methodologies and knowledge with other disciplines and at the same time we learn about the realities of other cities, in this case a developing city that is growing intensively. Finally, against both for tutors and students the IP is an opportunity for socializing and networking. I want to grate all students and tutors, and specially the hosts of the event, prof. dr. Bahar Gedikli and prof. dr. Ela Babalik-Sutcliffe from the Middle East Technical University for the wonderful program we had.You can find more information of the Intensive Program, previous editions and the partners involved in the ESPD web page here.

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