A new symbol of the city and of what else?
A giant mosque to be built in Çamlıca
One of the recent topics of discussion on the changing silhouette of Istanbul is the giant mosque to be built in Çamlıca, next to the broadcasting tower on the hill. The Prime Minister Erdoğan announced a few months ago that they already started working on the plans for building a 15,000 square meter mosque that will be visible from all parts of Istanbul.
Actually, by the time the prime minister made the announcement to the public of this new mosque project, the planning work was near completion.
Çamlıca Hill located in Üsküdar is one of the many hills in Istanbul, and definitely the biggest one being 268 meters above sea level. It is celebrated as a landmark of Istanbul in many novels and movies on the city. Crowded by Istanbulites on a romantic excursion or crowded by other visitors as a touristic spot, Çamlıca is also celebrated for being surrounded by trees in a city whose ‘green’ parts seem to gradually get replaced by more and more ‘concrete’. Accompanied by a sweet breeze, people enjoying their drinks or food while looking over the Bosphorus, is the regular sight one encounters at Çamlıca…
Since there was only 40 days for the project of the giant mosque to be finalized after the Prime Minister announced the competition for it, it seems like the project was already finalized behind closed doors before it was even made public. Furthermore, this was confirmed when Hacı Mehmet Güner, the public works director of Kahramanmaraş’ municipality, became the head architect of the project upon Erdoğan’s order. Right after Erdoğan paid a visit to the southern province of Kahramanmaraş in May he was impressed by Güner’s work there and appointed Güner to the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry Consultancy. Following that, Güner came to Istanbul and began working on the project with his co-workers in an office rented especially for them. The fact that this project was conceived at a ‘higher’ level rather than a public one as it should be with such major ‘monuments’, was further confirmed as Güner stated that a permission to build the mosque in the protected area would not be required since the ministry had already approved the area’s upper scale plans. And Güner has openly stated that he plans to build a mosque even more magnificent than what his predecessors have achieved in the past.
Many people including architects and notable public figures object to this giant mosque project, basing their arguments on the fact that there is an apparent lack of public participation in making decisions about the project. However the prime minister has made it clear that they are determined to not only erect a giant mosque with the highest minarets in the world as the appointed architect of the mosque has revealed, but that they are also working on a new landscape for Istanbul. Erdoğan, during his visit to the newly renovated Fatih Mosque and the Mahmut I Library in Istanbul on the 559th anniversary of the city’s conquest by Ottoman forces, declared that the giant mosque in Çamlıca designed so as to be visible from all parts of Istanbul will also include facilities underneath the complex for traditional crafts such as Turkish calligraphy. What this implies might be interpreted as a desire to revive some aspects of Ottoman culture since the design of the giant mosque complex reactivates in a contemporary setting the tradition of madrasahs that used to accompany the mosques in the past. In addition, Erdoğan also stated that they will restore more madrasahs in the city. So the giant mosque will become one of the symbols of the city, but the question of what it will also symbolize remains…