Paris of the East; Van

Paris of the East; Van

In the past, there used to be constant debates between Van and Erzurum on who is the Paris of the East. When a criminal was sentenced to some thousand stick penalty, the criminal cried out: You either haven’t been beaten, or you don’t know to count. The situation is same here. You either haven’t seen Paris or you have no idea about architecture. It is written in the history that there have constantly been earthquakes in Van. Even the old Van, can be seen at the bottom of the castle, in ruins. The new Van was built at little upwards of the Lake Van shores. Approximately 100.000 population, exceeded artificially to 500.000 because of the terror and evacuation of villages. Of course, old houses with gardens were collapsed and high buildings were erected instead. As those constructions were erected without ground surveys, they had great damages in the last earthquake. They all were heavily damaged and it is not possible to live in.

Now, the government has a new opportunity: to build the Paris of the East in Van. Before, after the earthquakes in Yalova and Adapazarı, new buildings as a follow up of the twisted construction were built on the ruins. Rehabilitation of those lands would only be done after another earthquake. But Van is different. Our citizens in the villages which were evacuated in 1990 were sent to cities. These people having grounds and animals wandered for a long time in the cities with their crowded families. Usually their kids were shoe shine boys, and almost all of the fathers were street hawkers. The state constructed single-storey houses, a little bit beter than tents, outside of the city for a part of them. There were no bus routes to those places (In fact they even didn’t have Money for the public transportation). There was no plumbing at homes. They were carrying water from somewhere away. One day, the governor of the city, notable administers, came with a delegation for opening the jerry built neighborhood. Tree seedlings were planted aside. After the speeches in accordance with the meaning and significance of the day, it was time to water the seeds. But, what on earth it was; there was no water. One of the special operators went into a nearby house and brought some water. The plant was watered. Jus as we heard one of the residents was humming in his mother tongue. As we didn’t understand, we asked someone to translate: ‘We cannot find water to drink, and he waters a tree.’!

Now, as Van has to live with its high-population, and it will take time to re-build the city, TOKİ should complete the constructions within the framework of the new master plan. A new urbanism hastily projects for the construction of new buildings, whose bidding was done a short time ago, may cause a disaster.  A wonderful city, with amazing lake views can be seen from all sides, markets, schools, hotels, shopping centers and wide roads, should be constructed. Just to take precautions and a little bit of comprehension would be sufficient for this.

TOKİ could not be successful in terms of architecture in any cities of Anatolia. They just did a little bit better jobs then the former build and sell constructors. The buildings which were completed on the way to Esenboğa, in Ankara are the examples of primitiveness. Chamber of Architects should raise their voice in such massacres. Because the shanty houses on the protocol way in accordance with nature and geography, which were not irritating, were demolished and the floors, which were not surely designed by an architect, were put superposingly , instead.

Now, by hiring a city planner, (of course have an architect made architectural drawings fort he buildings), an architectural development efforts should be initiated. However, as the city planning is a serious business, opinions from all segments should be taken into consideration. There is no need to say that this issue is too serious to be left to TOKİ. Yes, a few neighborhoods with shops, schools, auto parks, wide roads were built. However TOKİ’s tower-like constructions, with an increasing number floors, was inspiring for private sector. High-rise buildings in social housing statue, with western names are being sold to the wealthy at high prizes.

All these contradictions can be eliminated in Van, candidate to be the new Paris of the East. Nowadays, when the transportation facilities are multiplied, the city might have a spectacular view by means of its earthquake-resistant homes with a low horizontal expansion. Of course, same procedure can be applied in Erciş, the town which was severely damaged in the earthquake.

The Şamran channels from Urartus used to provide water to the city. Instead of spring water coming towards these channels which was damaged partly, citizens in Van are drinking calcareous water, today in  21th century. Within the same Project, those historical channels might be reconstructed. If the authorities gave up building tall constructions which block the air flow, they would do a big favor to Van.

Of course we are confident that none of these recommendations would be taken into consideration. TOKİ would construct huge buildings, would ruin the chaotic architecture of the city and construct with concrete piles all around the city. As in the ‘Get used tol ive with the eartquake’ aphotegm of the Eartquake Grandfather, people of Van had beter to get used tol ive with the buildings of TOKİ. ‘Paris of the East?’, no should worry about it, without a comprehensive urban renewal, it is not possible that Erzurum would be Paris with its current construction. Erzurum has long been just a huge town.