Tonguç Akış (*)
The Production of Space in a Neighborhood
A neighborhood is produced as an important socio-spatial unit in the urban environment. This slick living space with flexible borders and impacts, is a dynamic place consisting of historical and cultural differences and prosperity. Diversified neighborhoods in İzmir contain the elements of urban culture in layered interactions as well as the fertility of the rural. 'The Production of Space in a Neighborhood' consists of conceived, perceived and lived moments of spaces having complex and multi-dimensional characters produced by multiple actors.
When we look at photos, we see that people producing neighborhoods. Look, there's someone at the repair shop. Did you see how deeply and beautifully he stares? Yes, the one on the roof and the terrace. The residents of the neighborhood come together and form relationships. The powerful oppresses and the weak is oppressed. Classes are there to stay. It can happen the other way around if there is a struggle. In certain moments there is even absolute happiness. People visit from other neighborhoods; people leave for other neighborhoods. The relationships are dynamic, everything might change instantly. It’s necessary to Understanding the Transforming İzmir. According to circumstances, some people stick together and never let go, some are always divided after all. Greeks are gone, Armenians have migrated, Jewish have left, Kurds are outsiders, Romanis have always been marginalized, but they are all from İzmir. Infidel İzmir. The majority of people are strangers, alone and othered. Neighborhood also consists of these others.
It rains and floods. The infrastructure collapses, sewer overflows from manholes. Nonstop earthquakes also occur in İzmir neighborhoods. Each contact, disaster and catastrophe leaves a trace. They leave historical marks on buildings, roads and sidewalks. The previous newcomers built domes, the new ones converted the balconies. Excavation in Agora, mound in Smyrna, cardboards at Çakaloğlu Han. Sandcastles in İzmir. Rainbow effaced from Gezi stairs. Lines on its walls. These lines give away the level of the mud brought by the previous flood or you can tell the Richter Scale from looking at the capillary cracks formed after the last earthquake. Those lines are reshaped in the neighborhood with gentrification. Now the lines are in plans and projects. When the contractor appears around the corner, the conversation in the neighborhood changes. The dialog is dry, and about the number of given rooms and the increase in number of floors. Does unearned income always win? The financial graphics of construction companies and elevator buttons point upwards relentlessly. Hands are rubbed together when the rents increase and then the tenants leave forever. The trace of the photo frame the tenant left behind. Neighborhood also consists of these traces.
Turgut Uyar said Hunger is in the Majority. Let’s add to that and say, people who don’t see the sea are in the majority, even in İzmir. The urban poor can’t be found in the neighborhood, they are at the periphery. Far from the eye and far from the city center. We are not talking about poor neighborhoods. The situation there is Poverty in Turns. The one who gets rich moves to the wealthy neighborhood. The poor don't want to show where they live. They don't have many visitors. The mud outside is carried in. Women do the never-ending chores. If she asks for a balcony she won’t get one. Poor cram everything into the house. There is no room for life. The supplies are from the village and the rural. Those who don’t have much settle for what they have, those who have a lot can’t harmonize their belongings. House of The Poor appears more complex and layered in photographs. Sometimes it's a hole in the wall. Neighborhood also consists of these holes.
Day and night vary in the neighborhood. Now there is a watchman at the center, he appears when it gets dark. He doesn’t roam around like Murtaza. He waits. Southwester and a breeze. Everything has its own time and place. Like summer and winter. Sun and shadow. A coat, shorts, raincoat, swimsuit, slippers, umbrella and boots for the ones who can afford them. IZBAN is cheaper to workers in the morning. Hidrellez, Swallow Storm. Eggs are hidden, people jump over bonfires, wishes are made, hands are kissed, fishnets are mended. Flamingos leave and Turnas return. Cats around the fish stalls in Friday and Tuesday markets. People wait for the payday; debts are paid, or payments are postponed. Sunset is beautiful on Kordon grass, at Bostanlı Terrace, in the City Forest. Time flies. Neighborhood also consists of these times.
In harvest, there is a rush in İzmir’s villages that only recently became officially urban neighborhoods. Their soil is fertile. Now you can get to Aliağa, Bayındır, Bergama, Beydağ, Çeşme, Dikili, Foça, Karaburun, Kemalpaşa, Kınık, Kiraz, Menemen, Ödemiş, Seferihisar, Selçuk, Tire and Urla neighborhoods from the city center via public busses. New production, circulation and consumption networks are formed. Producer and consumer are side by side on the Internet. Goats jumped, milking achieved, tobacco and cotton had quotas by the State. Fish farms are close to the shore, a protest march was organized against them. Just like the one they did in the past for the gold mine in Bergama. Cattle and sheep are miserable because the pastures are fenced. Animals can’t roam in ease; they are afraid of wind plants. Neighborhoods of population exchange have already sent new migrants. Abandoned villages are deserted and outcast. New Forms of Peasantry exist, albeit rather scarcely. Vineyards are beautiful and at the end of green routes. Wine production is flowering again. The soil is cultivated and planted but always fertile. Neighborhood also consists of these soils.
‘The Production of Space in a Neighborhood’ involves a holistic approach that also comprises original details without any neglection. The network of relationships in İzmir and its neighborhoods need to be considered on a global scale, and include a perspective having the attention to the basic issues and the conflicts, not isolated from production, consumption and distribution formations. The theoretical accumulation originating from The Production of Space that historically evolves From Critical Urban Theory to the Right to the City sheds light on basic current environmental debates and also frames them. Urban poverty, inequality among incomes, social injustice, labor exploitation, practices based on undeserved gain, decisions made without considering public good and scientific methods, crimes against the city and the citizens, pillaging and destruction of culture, natural environment and all living creatures are recently on İzmir’s agenda. Most of these agenda items are focused on built environment and space. They are perceived in neighborhoods completely or partially. The main strategy in these matters should be to build substantial solidarity and cooperation besides determining these issues and evaluating them in detail. It's also valuable to become organized and gather to overcome these issues as well as coming up with common resolutions to elaborated local concerns. Let’s see what ‘Mahalle@İzmir’ will offer us in the future in the actions of the trilogy including expose, propose and politicize. The photos showed us İzmir; what else can we do together to understand, feel, fix, ameliorate or change the displayed?
‘Değişen İzmir’i Anlamak’ (Understanding the Transforming İzmir), ed. Deniz Yıldırım, Evren Haspolat, Phoenix, 2010
‘Eleştirel Kent Teorisinden Kent Hakkına’ (From critical urban theory to the right to the city), Peter Marcuse, ‘City’, 13, Taylor and Francis, 2009
‘Mekân Üretimi’ (The Production of Space), Henri Lefebvre, Sel, 2015
‘Yeni Köylülük Biçimleri’ (New Forms of Peasantry), Jan Douwe Van der Ploeg, Earthscan, 2009
‘Nöbetleşe Yoksulluk’ (Poverty in Turns), Oğuz Işık, M. Melih Pınarcıoğlu, İletişim, 2009
‘Açlık Çoğunluktadır’ (Hunger is in the Majority), Turgut Uyar, ‘Toplandılar’, Cem, 1974
‘İzmir’de Kumdan Kaleler’ (Sandcastles in İzmir), Sezai Göksu, Birikim, 86-87, 1996
‘Yoksulun Evi’ (House of the Poor), Ersan Ocak, ed. Necmi Erdoğan, ‘Yoksulluk Halleri’, İletişim, 2007
‘Murtaza’, Orhan Kemal, Cem, 1969
(*) Assoc. Prof. Dr., İzmir Institute of Technology Department of Architecture