An Interactive Visual History Of Tophane

Students: Alexandra Courcoulas


After an initial auction was nullified by the Turkish state in 2005, on May 16, 2010 it was announced that Dogus Holding – with a $702 million dollar bid – won the competition for the privatization and development of GalataPort, Istanbul’s international cruise ship terminal and one of the 10 largest ports in Europe in terms of the passengers it accommodates. Dogus was given the right to redevelop the 112.147 m2 waterfront area and to operate it for the next 30 years.

The redevelopment project aims to improve Istanbul’s cruise ship port in order to boost the city’s international image and to increase cruise ship tourism. It also aims to make this underused and very centrally located part of the Bosporus shoreline publicly accessible. Unfortunately, following the trends of the past decade, it introduces yet another consumption-oriented public space to Istanbul: high-end retail, entertainment, dining, and hotel facilities will be an integral component of the new port. Additionally, the project will profoundly alter the character of the Tophane quarter. In fact, although the redevelopment project is still unrealized, it has already driven up rents and forced many small businesses to close up shop.

In light of the impending transformation of Tophane, this interactive map aims to serve as a platform for the documentation of the history of the area. Employing visual documentation, it currently offers glimpses into key moments in the history of the area.

A Brief Historical Introduction

In the nineteenth century, Tophane, which takes its name from the 15th century Ottoman imperial cannon foundry located in the area, was the site of a number of military facilities. Soon after, it became an important port and industrial site, with numerous warehouses, customs buildings, and workshops. The existing urban fabric, as well as a number of architecturally significant buildings, were destroyed in the late 1950s as a consequence of Adnan Menderes’ urban renewal efforts and the widening of the principal road that traverses the area, now called Meclis-i Mebusan. Between 1957 and 1960, the Tophane coast was also land filled and a series of seven cargo warehouses designed by Sedad Hakki Eldem (1908–1988) were built, eliminating the relationship that many of the existing buildings had with each other and with the water. Finally, in 1986, when the area was closed to cargo ships – though continuing to host cruise ships, as it still does today – the Eldem warehouses were vacated and the area was for the most part publicly inaccessible and significantly underused. Since 2003 a number of the Eldem warehouses have been transformed with state permission into art museums or temporary exhibition spaces. These arts institutions have made the area accessible to the public — admittedly ‘the public’ here mostly refers to a narrow elite. What follows are a series of glimpses into the history of Tophane – made up primarily of visual material that has been mapped onto an interactive map. Users are welcome to contribute additional material to to help create an increasingly comprehensive visual documentation of the history of the area.