SOUR Finalist in Taksim Urban Design Competition

December 21, 2020
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Urban Commons

The importance of urban green in uniting people, place and memory.
Urban Commons designed by SOUR in collaboration with Balmori Associates, Cana Bilsel, and Sara Belge has been shortlisted among 20 finalists to design Taksim Square and Gezi Park in Istanbul, in an international urban design competition held by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality via Istanbul Planning Agency (IPA). Developed together with a diverse team from disciplines such as art, history, museology, tourism, data analysis, traffic, security, inclusive and sustainable design, the proposal for Istanbul’s most important public space, focuses on revitalizing the neglected historic site, and envisions a square reunited with the people and the park through architectural interventions around Access, Action and Arts.

A public space that is inclusive of and equitable for all. A place that meets everyone's needs and prioritizes their well-being.

Of all major metropolises in Europe and North America, Istanbul spends the most amount of money on public spaces. However, Taksim, once Istanbul’s greatest civic amenity, is currently

longing for its glorious past. “Grey”, “Unsafe” and “Cold” were among the returning descriptions of the square by our conducted survey. Our Instagram data analysis showed that Taksim’s top three hashtags turned out to be “organic bread”, “bread” and “follow me”, showing the disconnect between the people and the site’s historic value and genius loci. Through access to its history and nature, improved mobility, and public space that is safe and friendly for all, Taksim Square and Gezi Park have the foundations to become Istanbul’s urban commons, the green heart of the concrete city center.

A place in the making with all its stakeholders. A destination with diverse programming that adapts to the times and what people want.

Taksim Square and Gezi Park sit at the center of distinctive neighborhoods of creatives, makers, students, academics, entrepreneurs, and more. This introduces a unique urban moment to design with an emphasis on gathering together rather than on separation - creating a sense of place and strengthening the connection between people and the places they share. The array of programs offer a unique opportunity for activating this urban public space in new ways and brings a diversity of functions together: meeting, exchanging, flaneuring, consuming, working, entertaining, playing, dining, and making.

A cultural hub that educates on history through arts and social sciences within the “Museum of Urban Memory”, as well as temporary indoor and outdoor exhibitions throughout the park.

Art is part of the site’s identity and is essential to position Taksim Square and Gezi Park as a lively, memorable and inspirational destination. Through the variety of proposed arts interventions in urban and architectural scale the site becomes a stage for all.

The Museum of Urban Memory, designed around the symbolic trees of the Gezi Park, aims to further repair  the disconnection between Taksim and its neglected history. Placed on the site of important past democratic manifestations such as the May day gathering of 1977 and the Gezi manifestations of 2013, a new museum is proposed on the place where the citizens of Istanbul from various backgrounds claimed their “right on the decision making processes of the city they live”, where they aimed to protect the city’s environment for future generations. Therefore, a museum devoted to urban memory would be ideal for such a monumental location.


İnanç Eray (Team Leader) - Architect
Prof. Dr. F. Cana Bilsel - Architect, Urban Designer
Noemie Lafaurie-Debany - Landscape Architect
Dr. Züleyha Sara Belge - City Planner, Urban Designer

Design Team
Pınar Güvenç - Design Strategist
Yifan Yang - Junior Architect
Yasmine Abuzeid - Service Designer
Noah Sass - Architectural Assistant
Zeynep Damgacıoğlu - Architectural Assistant
Hyemin Gu - Landscape Designer
Javier Gonzalez-Campana -  Landscape Designer
Chris Liao - Landscape Designer

Consultant Team
Dr. Owen Miller - Historian
Dr. Cem Kınay - Tourism Entrepreneur, Hospitality Consultant
Didem Özbek - Artist, Curator
Marianne de Zeeuw - Art Historian
Mehmet Gözetlik - Visual Communication and Experience Designer
Onurcan Akıncı - RPA Developer
Michel de Zeeuw - Traffic Safety & Road Designer
Prof. Dr. Namık Erkal Architect, Museum Consultant
Maria Sezer - Artist, Art Education Consultant
Christina Mallon - Inclusive Design Consultant
Kemal Ovacık - Electrical Engineer
Emre Karamuk - Structural Engineer
Serhan Mumcu - Mechanical Engineer
Cemil Yaman - Sustainability Consultant
Murat Haşim Ceran - Quantity Surveyor, Cost Consultant
Zeynep Odabas - Fire Strategy Consultant
Quemuel Arroyo - Accessibility Consultant, Former Chief Accessibility Officer


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