Esin İlmen & U. Oluş Beklemez
Although we are both from Izmir, we moved to Karantina -once called Kallithea- relatively late. The name of the neighborhood is derived from the Directorship of Quarantine founded in 1840 to prevent epidemics brought from overseas. The word quarantine comes from the Italian word ‘quaranta’ which means 40. At the time, the ships used to harbor by the coast and its passengers would spend 40 days in the sheds. As the Directorship of Quarantine moved to Urla in 1863, the Municipal Council changed the name of the area to Mithat Paşa, and the name Karantina was forgotten until 2019 when the municipality decided to move traffic underground and transformed it into a public square. Before moving into this area, we passed through or spent time by the sea here, so the focus of our project was to observe the changes in daily life practices following the area’s transformation into a public square.
The infrastructural transformation of Karantina Square was completed and opened to public in 2019. The tram stop and the pier located here give a transit quality to the square but on the other hand, it is designed to serve as a recreational space. The iconic Democracy and Solidarity Monument is designed by Günnur Özsoy. The artist describes that the monument “originates from one piece, then forms a dense mass and reminds of the pebble stones on the beach”. Officially, it is stated that the monument evokes an image that people are standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, which is why she was commissioned. It would be fair to say that the design of the square went for creating a different aesthetic with the monument, the tram stop with its particular design, the huge metal balls placed over the decorative pools, its gray walls with circular holes on them sparking a desire to peek through, and some park benches facing the walls instead of the view.
Although it is a recently developed space, Karantina Square is full of people who like to cool off by the sea at night during the summer, to exercise, take a stroll with their children or lay down on the grass like the youth does. There are women selling flowers and men serving tea. The area, which used to be considered the frontier of the city, a place where people traveling from overseas had to wait for forty days before entering the city to prevent epidemics, today with its public square, falls in the heart of the city, bringing together everyone and everything, and serving as a place to breathe for its residents.