There are more than a few raised eyebrows at the moment concerning the news coming out of Turkey, especially Istanbul. I don't wish for this blog to become involved in political discussion, however I will say that the true origin of the protest (over-development) has real merit, because every time I visit Istanbul I am both amazed and terrified at the amount of construction and the great seas of concrete which are enveloping the city as it grows. The over-proliferation of shopping centres and the development of ever-more spectacular residential compounds - which themselves contain shopping centres - is frankly incredible. 

During my time in Istanbul I worked in the north of the city near an area called Levent, where a large shopping centre known as Metro City was constructed. Then no more than a year or two later a second huge mall known as Kanyon was built practically next door. If you look at either of these locations on Google maps, then look at the scale at the bottom left you'll note they are approximately 400m away from each other!

Subsequent to this an enormous blue tower known as the Istanbul Sapphire was built just north of these malls, on the same stretch of road. It is yet another spectacular residential tower with its very own retail mall at the base. The sheer quantity of these developments springing up all over the city feels endless. 

It's in this context you have to focus on the events in Taksim Square - there are certainly prettier locations than Gezi park in Istanbul, however it is located in one of the busiest possible locations on the European side of the city. Several of the major international hotels are located in the proximity, and Taksim is a huge cultural / transport hub. Therefore a bit of greenery and some decent trees provide a welcome sight, even though in terms of size and actual usage Gezi is more like one of the larger "oasis" Squares in London's West End rather than a fully-fledged "park". 

As I write the Guardian is reporting that the Turkish PM has suspended the redevelopment plans, we can hope that things calm down and that the authorities begin to address this redevelopment issue in a more measured way. I visit Istanbul frequently and see with my own eyes how the city is changing. Some projects have real merit and do address serious problems: easing traffic congestion at the main airport entrance or building a tunnel from the Bosphorus to the outskirts at Kagithane are two recent examples. However others such as the huge new Zorlu Centre (www.zorlucentre.com) made me wince when I first saw the sheer scale of it and where it was going to be built, in a prime spot on a hill above the Bosphorus looking down over the iconic first Bridge. 

The Taksim demonstrations certainly seem to have served as a lightning conductor for other issues, however I think it's important not to lose sight of the original purpose. I hope this short piece serves to give some insight into why for many "istanbullus" this proposed redevelopment seemed to touch on a raw nerve.