After London and Moscow, Istanbul with its nearby 15 million inhabitants, is the third largest city in Europe and makes up the biggest city in Turkey with 20% of the country`s population. Istanbul`s rapid urbanization and its neoliberal transformation, that shifted planning priorities, are discussed in the documentary Ecümenopolis: City without limits *, directed by İmre Azem. The film does not only focus on issues around transportation challenges, which have arose due to the city`s urbanization throughout the last years, but also questions the transformation process and its dynamics. Interviews with experts, academics, writers, investors, city-dwellers and community leaders make the film become a holistic experience.
[...] The neoliberal transformation that swept through the world economy during the 1980’s, and along with it the globalization process that picked up speed, brought with it a deep transformation in cities all over the world. For this new finance-centered economic structure, urban land became a tool for capital accumulation, which had deep effects on major cities of developing countries. In Istanbul, which already lacked a tradition of principled planning, the administrators of the city blindly adopted the neoliberal approach that put financial gain ahead of people’s needs; everyone fought to get a piece of the loot; and the result is a megashantytown of 15 million struggling with mesh of life-threatening problems.
Especially in the past 10 years, as the World Bank foresaw in its reports, Istanbul has been changing from an industrial city to a finance and service-centered city, competing with other world cities for investment. Making Istanbul attractive for investors requires not only the abolishment of legal controls that look out for the public good, but also a parallel transformation of the users of the city. This means that the working class who actually built the city as an industrial center no longer have a place in the new consumption-centered finance and service city. So what is planned for these people? [...] (quote from the Synopsis, read on here)
*The term ecumenopolis was coined in 1967 by Constantinos Apostolou Doxiadis, a Greek city planner and stands for the idea of a single continuous worldwide city as a result of current urbanization and population growth trends.
The whole film is now available online in Turkish with English subtitles, which start at 05:30 (!) – watch it here: (Activate English subtitles at the bottom, right of the youtube screen.)