The recent urban transformation and redevelopment of Istanbul has been associated with gentrification resulting from the neoliberal policies of the current government. This inevitably has changed and shaped daily life, streets, neighbourhoods and created a city that seems to be constantly under reconstruction. With almost half of the building stock in Istanbul listed to be demolished, life is experienced in and around construction sites. Public spaces, streets and neighbourhoods are being reconfigured, transformed, emptied, and even demolished.
The fundamental question of this research is this impact of the mass redevelopment of Istanbul on the use and experience of public space. What drives the government’s urban redevelopment agenda, how life between buildings has become life between construction sites, and what it means to live one’s everyday life surrounded by construction projects form the secondary questions. The research investigates three areas in Istanbul (Balat, Caddebostan and Karakoy) through a micro-ethnographic study which includes economic, visual, sensory, and observational methods, together with a review of redevelopment policies and laws implemented by the government. The findings suggest that the construction sites are in every corner of the city and creating noise, dirt, and dust, as well as changing visionscapes, soundscapes and smellscapes. This systematic ‘cleansing’ is not only blocking traffic and closing streets to accommodate constructions but it also breaks nodes, edges, and linkages, damages them temporarily or sometimes demolishes them completely in a spatial and relational sense. The chain of continuity in certain neighbourhoods is being reconfigured and the collective memory of places are being erased physically, sensorially, and emotionally. The research further argues that a secular versus postsecular dichotomy has emerged and the government’s postsecular Islamist ideology is erasing secular memory, while giving ‘rights to the city’ to certain groups of people.