On day five we want to understand the importance of the Taksim Square and Istiklal Street for ourselves. Before we start our analysis we review few articles explaining the historical meaning of the area. In order to be able to record our own findings, we spend the whole day analyzing both the square and the street: we take pictures, draw maps and make audio recordings.
We find that the monument celebrating the victory of Atatürk in the Independence War – located in the convergence of the axes of the square and Istiklal – is surrounded by the construction site for the tracks of the historical Tram in Istiklal. The monument is still accessible for pedestrians through small metallic bridges. We can still find some people accessing the monument for few minutes to take some selfies.
On a fence behind the old Ottoman water pumping station, we find renderings and visualizations of the huge mosque that is currently being built there and would have a tremendous importance in the perception of Taksim.
It is so hot outside that we have to have frequent breaks for a cold limonata. During our breaks we visited some of the cafés close the shopping street. What is interesting, is that most of the nice places are in the side streets, with tables outside in the shadow of the narrow streets, instead of directly on Istiklal. We heard that it was not always like this. Years ago the Istiklal Street was a hotspot for bars and restaurants.
The entrances to the metro are small, unimpressive and often hidden by a fence of the construction site. There are loads of pigeons on the square and feeding them is a pleasure for young and old. One can find mobile stands selling Simit everywhere, also at Taksim. We notice the high number of huge advertising banners. Some are regular advertisements about universities in Istanbul, but most of them – extremely large ones – are about the anniversary of 15th July, the failed coup of 2016 or of the president. We also find a high presence of national flags, which seem to be everywhere, as if like we would otherwise forget that we are in Turkey, which is somehow even disturbing.
After the analysis of the Square we still find curious that the festival is not in the “real” Taksim, since it would offer a lot more space and possibilities and would in this way also fill the wide square with a function and life…
The AKM, the Atatürk Culture Center, is shut down and in very bad condition. As we heard from our interview partners, a new opera house is to be created.