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Swamps of Istanbul



The wetlands and swamps of Istanbul are an important part of the landscape of Istanbul that have been largely ignored or eradicated in the uncontrolled growth of the city in the last 30 years. Istanbul is on a major bird migratory route and home to many species of water fowl in a unique biodiversity mix. Important wetlands such as the upper estuaries of the Golden Horn, Buyukcekmece and Kucukcekmece lakes, Göksu River on the Bosphorus and the Tuzla shoreline have been over time polluted and made uninhabitable for this animal life and in some cases human habitation. This rapid, uncontrolled, and illegal urbanization accompanied by insufficient infrastructure has caused degradation of these wetlands in the Istanbul area to the extent that they are hardly a visible part of the city. In addition the watershed basins inside the metropolitan area and the transportation network have accelerated the change in character of Istanbul’s topography with serious negative impacts on water quality of the wetlands and basin area. The impact on bio-diversity and landscape today has reached a critical juncture causing deadly floods and earth instability.

            While it would be impossible to reverse the pollution and degradation of these wetlands, the opportunity to strategize how urbanization and the wetlands can develop together is a pressing topic for Istanbul today. On the urban and architectural scales Istanbul presents a collection of areas where the technical and social impacts of the wetlands can be addressed by design strategies combined with ecological thinking.

            We propose a project where advanced architectural strategies from the Netherlands are combined with ecological expertise and traditional knowledge systems present in Turkey to produce a new hybrid type of design approach. This approach seeks to integrate the technological possibilities of advanced architectural know-how on wetland zones present in the Netherlands with the ecological experts in environment and traditional systems of land management present in Turkey. This meeting of the technology and technique is intended to provide each partner with access to knowledge. Through co-operation on the wetlands of Istanbul the Dutch-Turkish relationship will yield advances that will benefit both countries.

Study area

The Wetlands of Istanbul


Gökhan Karakuş: Architectural theorist and designer. Focuses on the development of architectonic systems combining local and regional practices with advances in contemporary design and architecture. Kerem Ali Boyla: Ecologist and bird expert. He has extensive knowledge about Istanbul's wetlands and swamps' conservation issues, priority species, threats and pressures.

Güneşin Aydemir: Biologist and conservationist. Active member of Bugday Association; she knows traditional land use practices in Anatolia (sustainable use, ethno-botany, cultural traditions involving landscape, species' use). Esra Başak: Ecological economist and conservationist. Ecosystem-based economies, valuation of ecosystem goods and services, integrated conservation management knowledge

Possible Dutch participants

West 8, Waterstudio, Factor Architecten, H+N+S Landschapsarchitecten, Anne Holtrop, Drost + van Veen, Studio Noach

Study scope

Long term urban design, architectural and ecological workshop to derive alternative urban design strategies and building types for the wetlands area of Istanbul to encourage the recovery of these environments for biodiversity and human habitation.


16 months. 4 one-week workshops every 4 months.