Friday, December 16, 2011



In the city space individuals and groups make statements, fight over it, contest it and transform it; leave their ‘signatures’. There is a complex, multi-layered story intertwined with the texture of every city.

Whatever happens in this physical space is social and meaningful.
Whenever someone sees graffiti on the wall it makes them think: who did it and why? Why is the message presented in this particular form? Is its subject a social taboo? May it be politically incorrect?
Whenever someone sees a new, massive building construction they may wonder: how does it fit into the landscape of the city? Who is it designed for? Whose power and influence made it happen? Who are the losers in this game?
Whenever someone sees a person performing in the streets they ask themselves series of questions: where is this person from? Are they making a statement or merely try to make a living? Why did they choose this place?
Whenever someone sees an object so out of the context in the streets of the city, like for instance… an inflatable sofa… they don’t just pass by indifferently.

We place our sofa in different areas and talk to different people about their perception of the city. The sofa is easy to carry, so we can take it with us for a tour of Istanbul. Placed somewhere unexpected it makes people curious, some of them approach us and ask about the project. Most of them have to be encouraged, but very few decline our offer to sit and chat. Most are eager to share their experience and provide some insight into personal stories and memories interwoven into transitional processes and urban transformation, which changed and continue to change lives of all Istanbulites.
The photographs and fragments of conversations below are the account of the first (of what we hope to become a series) ‘sofa tete-a-tete’ in Moda, Kadıköy, Asian side of Istanbul.

Moda á la mode

Lazy Sunday afternoon, Turkish breakfast, or more of a brunch actually: crusty, grilled bread, a selection of cheese, tomato, cucumber, olives, menemen (scrambled eggs á la turca), honey and kaymak (clotted cream); and last but not least hectolitres of Turkish tea.
Having had six cups of the latter a walk towards the historical ferry landing is a must. The boats were moored along both sides of the pier and the locals were able to benefit from fairly clean sea until the beginning of the 1980-ties. At present, due to water contamination (let’s face it! Istanbul is a 15million population metropolis!) swimming in the Sea of Marmara is not much of a delight (theoretically speaking, not that I’ve tried it myself!). Nevertheless, even nowadays one may encounter a true sea lover (usually one of the senior inhabitants of the neighbourhood…), immersing in Marmara’s waters. For those who can afford it there is more comfortable option though – an outdoor swimming pool at Moda Deniz Kulübü, with a truly breathtaking view of the sea.
Long gone is the beach (a long strip of which used to be allocated for the female part of Istanbul’s population only) replaced with a magnificent boulevard stretching along the seaside.
A walk towards Bostancı (nay… skip ‘towards’ and make it ‘to’ Bostancı. In the end it’s just a dozen kilometres away!) is one of the nicest walking routs in the city. You can admire the Sea of Marmara on your right and splendid park (or shall I say parks? Moda Parkı, Yoğurtçu Parkı and more…) and after about half an hour of a rather brisk walk you’ll get to Kalamış, my beloved marina.
Moda is a green, old and quiet part of Kadıkoy. This cosmopolitan district is one of the most desired residential destinations in Istanbul. It is partly due to its unique atmosphere. We are in Istanbul, but we get the vibe of a small, friendly, art town with its narrow streets, historical buildings, charming cafes, local art galleries and a small theatre (Oyun Atölyesi).
These are the streets of Moda, that the route of historical tram (Nostalji Tramvayı) cuts through; here you can have a cup of freshly brewed tea in a çay bahçesi (lit. tea garden) and cherish the sunsets with Aya Sofya, Topkapı palace and Sulanahmet in the background. Unforgettable!
However, even in such idyllic, picturesque place big city traffic and tumult cannot be avoided. More and more often old building are demolished and replaced by new blocks of flats, as the population keeps rising. Finding a parking spot has become a nightmare, particularly at the weekends, when Moda is under siege of day trippers. It’s no surprise that inhabitants of different neighbourhoods also want to enjoy a walk along the seaside and a lazy afternoon in one of the çay bahçesi with the view of The Sea of Marmara…
I’ll be honest; my relationship with Moda is very special. I used to live here for a year and it is most definitely one of my favourite places in Istanbul. I Hope that the European-Anatolian split aspect of my personality (Beyoğlu or Moda? Moda or Beyoğlu?), which is quite a serious condition at the moment will slowly die out. When this day comes I’ll allocate all these millions of Turkish Liras that I’ll have earned drudging and sweating, to buy an apartman with the view of Kalamış marina. It used to be my dream to live on the boat, but let’s face it – I am just too old and too spoilt for that…

(by: mor cadı)

Damla: T
he first thing related to Istanbul that comes to my mind is feeding seagulls from the ferry.

Damla: One of my early childhood memories is when my family and I were driving to Bakırköy. I was 7 years old at the time. It was a rainy day. Suddenly sewage pit overflow brought a dead mouse to the surface…

Serdar: My life is so boring and monotonous that I don’t really have any memories… (laughter)

Umut: Everything I’ve ever experienced happened in Istanbul
. When I think of the city my first association is huge traffic, which stresses people out a lot.

If the whole world was one country, Istanbul would definitely be its
Capital. I would love to see the old, historical Istanbul. I guess nowadays
the city has become a destination for breadwinners rather then those who 
want to admire its beauty. It resulted in slum areas spreading and cutting 
throughout neighborhoods.

Once my friend and I almost got crashed by a bus. In the end it was our own
fault, cause the brakes were not working properly (laughter). Another day I
was driving with a friend of mine. Our girlfriends were in another car which
was much faster then ours. In Caddebostan, some guys started chasing
them. We ended up getting into a fight and even threw beer bottles at them (laughter).

Bora: Istanbul is really big and different from other cities. I come from Afyon, but I've lived here for 10 years. Moving to Istanbul and living here has made my life better. I remember a day in Taksim, sitting in front of Galata tower, with a group of street musicians – we were even singing together! It was so much fun!

Esra: I'm from Istanbul and to me the city is a mixture of the East and the West. I love Istanbul very much.

Esra: Since the place you were born in is a matter of luck rather then a choice, I feel lucky having the chance of growing up in Istanbul.

Bora: But the traffic is a nightmare… the speed, the cars…
Esra: But come on, we have to think positive! (laughter)

I don’t love Istanbul any more. In the past the city was cleaner and less hectic, so people were more relaxed. To me Istanbul means Moda. I came to Üsküdar in the beginning of secondary school, and then I moved to Kadıköy.

When I first came here I fell in love with the city, especially with Moda neighborhood.
Life was not always easy, as my husband was a seaman. However, I have a lot of good memories. I vividly remember the Moda casino and the happy times when I went with my daughter to drink tea in ‘çay bahçesi’. Small things used to make me and still make me happy.

However I can’t feel this old spirit any more. Everybody is living their own
live, focusing on their own problems, which is a positive change. On the
other hand respect is also important and its something people of Istanbul
lack nowadays. I can’t see positive things in the city anymore. I live in the
Cem street and in the past I could see the sea from my windows. Now I can only see high buildings…

Nevzat: It can be the best place to be, provided you have friends and relatives to back you up. However, I only see the negative side of the city. Even though the day has 24 hours, the devil pulls the strings 25 hours a day, here in Istanbul.

Burçin: When it comes to University, Istanbul was my only alternative. My sister lives here and I love everything about the city. There are lots of things happening here and nobody judges anybody.

Nevzat: It is a wild world; so many people, so much noise. Doesn't it disturb

you? At the same time it is a cosmopolitan city – it really stands out.

Burçin: My memories related to Istanbul... hmmm... There is nothing specific really. Hold on, I remember once my sister went to a conference and I had some problems at school at the time. I felt very lonely...

Nevzat: My little daughter was in Istanbul at the time of a massive
earthquake. I asked myself : “How will my little daughter live among all those wolves?”

Maria (Germany): I enjoy taking a ferry in Istanbul and the fact that so many different people live here.

My best memory? That would be my friend's wedding party, yesterday in Taksim. It was beautiful because it wasn't pretentious at all. You could tell they were really in love.

Teoman: To me Istanbul is the Bosporus, the view but also Beşiktaş district,
because of football matches. However Kadıköy is also really special for me.
I met my girlfriend here. Istanbul is now very crowed, there are almost no
original Istanbulites her any more, and there is a lot of traffic. I'm thinking about going to England.

Hanife: Nowadays Istanbul is quite different then it used to be. I remember when I went to Sultanahmet and to the Maiden Tower with my family. I really love these places.

Teoman: I was 6 or 7 years old when I met Barış Manço, which is one of my
best memories really. I am a ‘Beşiktaş’ supporter and I remember that in
the past fans of opposite teams used to take the same ferry to go to the
match. Having been born in 1979, I know I was growing up in a good period.

Hanife: Best thing about Istanbul? I was very lucky to meet Teoman here.

Many, many thanks to Sevil, Sevgi & Sinan who conducted the interviews!!!