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Istanbul, the city too big to fail




by

Playing host to several civilisations and empires, Istanbul’s silhouette is defined by minarets, spires, columns and more and more tall buildings. The historical peninsula sits at the intersection of the Marmara Sea, the Bosporus and the Golden Horn.


Istanbul is a city as beautiful as Venice or San Francisco, and, once you are away from the water, as brutal and ugly as any metropolis undergoing the trauma of warp speed urbanisation. It is a place in which to sit under the shade of ancient pines and palm trees for a leisurely afternoon watching sun on water, looking out over the Bosporus. But also, in some parts, to tread very carefully. Istanbul has as many layers of history beneath the foundations of its buildings as any city in Europe. In 2010, it will become the European Cultural Capital. Depending on how you count, Istanbul has been the capital city of three, or perhaps four, empires. It is still shaped by the surviving fragments of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman civilisations. It has Orthodox Christian churches, Sunni mosques, and Sephardic synagogues. It has vast classical cisterns, ring upon ring of ancient fortifications, souks and palaces. It also has desolate concrete suburbs of extraordinary bleakness, urban terrorism, and a rootless, dispossessed underclass struggling to come to terms with city life.

Deyan Sudjic is director of the Design Museum, London, England.

Read more at Urban Age