Organizing and shaping a city are closely related to industry and its development. City planners that govern urban development leave lasting signs on its appearance and physical structure. However, due to the increasing population and decreasing space, every city struggles with its abandoned industrial complexes. People usually see the negative points of these structures, but allow me to examine the positives, and see how they can be put to good use.
Adapting the huge abandoned concrete building in the Hilal area of Izmir could open up the possibility of a better quality of life for many. Similar examples from across the globe so far have proven to be selfish and oriented exclusively towards the profit of small groups of individuals. Some people may envisage new apartment buildings built on the land, which would mean seizing the space and erasing the identity of this historic building, which is part of the collective memory of its citizens. It was thanks to this building that a certain economic sector had developed in Izmir. It is time for a real change.
Since this is not a desirable outcome, why not consider a far more promising and advanced alternative: firstly, to put a moratorium on the plot of land, to protect the building as a piece of cultural-industrial heritage, and then the remarkable construction of the building could be completely renovated into a student city, equipped with meeting rooms, lecture rooms, reading rooms, theatres, yoga and fitness studios, spaces for kitchens where food from all around the world could be prepared, production machine workshops and artisanal squares, co-working spaces, dormitories for young people from other Turkish cities or abroad, imagine a kindergarten on the roof or inline speed skating, and literally everything else that young people (and all other generations) need to thrive in a city. Above all, this student city would aim to act in order to promote the cultural integrity of Izmir and would serve as a hub for its further development with possible influences from the expat community of freelancers. This role can be fulfilled by rescuing the building in Hilal.
Anyone who cares about this issue will have already noticed that except in restaurants, parks, and the seaside, people who are usually in groups do not interact with each other. Let’s give a free and open space, a hub of urban culture, and non-formal education to young people from all communities. This could be a connective link that would promote bonds between all communities.
Appropriating abandoned city buildings that are the metropolitan and cultural heritage of every city, bringing them back to life instead of demolishing, is also a way towards a circular economy; hence we should not necessarily believe that new is better than old.
With such an approach, the city would be brought closer to its citizens, and the people would show an urge to contribute their opinions and partake in designing their own surroundings. Moreover, their appreciation of the protection of the city and its environmental and commercial improvement will rise. The postulates of circular economy and direct democracy, which admire environmentally-friendly solutions, sustainable economies, and direct commitment of citizens in the decision-making processes concerning living areas, are the principles we need for a reliable future.
The reuse of buildings from the industrialization period is an established European practice, so if this project were to be realized, I believe that it would prove the progressive nature of the city, improve the tourist capacity, and encourage Izmir as a city that strives to accept freelancers in large numbers. All this could also build towards the integration processes of the city and its surrounding community, which, obviously, require serious efforts to improve the quality of life.
Proofread by: Ally Coveney