The Turkish government promoted the building of housing cooperatives as a social housing program beginning in the second half of the 1930s. While these cooperatives received government aid, they did not produce affordable housing for lower-income groups. Instead, they provided fashionable modern houses to middle- and high-income homeowners. In architectural journals, these new houses were understood and critiqued as exemplars of a specifically Turkish modern style, rather than as pragmatic solutions to a housing crisis. Caught between Aspiration and Actuality: The Etiler Housing Cooperative and the Production of Housing in Turkey analyzes the transformation of housing cooperatives from a social housing program into a method to enable middle-class homeownership by examining the story of the Etiler Housing Cooperative, built between 1952 and 1957 in Istanbul. Gül Neşe Doğusan Alexander follows the story of Etiler through a detailed examination of laws, parliamentary minutes, popular media, professional publications on architecture, maps, and other published materials.
In the early years of the Republic of Turkey, the state prioritized the reconstruction of cities and the production of new settlement areas as part of its agenda for creating a modern Turkish nation. Policy choices about urban space from the 1930s through the 1960s had a great impact on the configuration of Turkish cities, and that influence has lasted to the present day. In the early 1930s, the republic was concerned with problems of land speculation and the lack of housing in Ankara, which grew rapidly after it became the new capital. In the early 1940s, the emergence of squatter settlements became a pressing issue, followed by the problems of uncontrolled sprawl in large Turkish cities and a surplus of luxurious housing.
Throughout this period, cooperative housing settlements, designed with modern facilities, became one of the primary types of housing production.1 Since cooperatives have a collectivist nature, professionals and policy makers in Turkey classified housing cooperative settlements as social housing projects, and Turkish policy makers have often seen them as the best solution for producing affordable housing for the masses. In the 1930s, however, the regulations governing housing cooperatives were written to serve the needs of the middle class. These regulations defined housing cooperatives as private enterprises to be subsidized with state funding. The aim of this approach was to develop a niche within the construction industry, where most firms specialized in infrastructure development, not housing. This tactic directed the industry in a way that marginalized the housing needs of low-income groups. From the mid-1930s through the 1950s, housing cooperatives almost exclusively facilitated homeownership among middle- to high-income groups.2 The cooperative communities provided the middle classes with fashionable houses designed by well-known architects—at below-market prices—that were appropriate for their positions, identities, and tastes.
Even though cooperatives were an important part of Turkish housing production until the 1980s, few academic studies have focused specifically on these institutions. Those that have examined housing cooperatives have for the most part viewed them from an economic, social, or urban policy perspective. Ruşen Keleş has analyzed the social housing aspect of the cooperatives, and şule Özüekren has concentrated on the workers’ housing cooperatives after the 1960s.3 One study, İlhan Tekeli and Selim İlkin's book on Bahçelievler Housing Cooperative, presents a detailed history of a single cooperative in relation to the urban history of Ankara.4 The existing literature does not, however, look at the institutional continuity between the beginnings of the housing cooperative movement in the 1930s and the cooperative settlements developed in subsequent decades. A lack of archival materials is one of the main reasons for the scarcity of scholarly work on housing cooperatives, in spite of their importance in architectural history. There are few sources of information on procedures for funding, accumulation of land, or relations between cooperative members, especially about cooperatives constructed before the 1960s.
In this article I follow the story of the Etiler Housing Cooperative, which was founded in 1951 and constructed between 1952 and 1957 in Istanbul. I investigate the interconnected relationship between the regulations and policies of housing cooperatives and the architectural design process of the settlements, with the aim of understanding how what started as a policy of promoting affordable housing became an opportunity to use state funding to produce luxury housing (Figure 1). The work of important Turkish architect and urban planner Kemal Ahmet Aru (1912–2005), the Etiler Housing Cooperative is a rare example for which substantial archival material exists. A detailed investigation of these materials—which present information on construction funding, relations between members, design programs, and corruption—provides an opportunity for a deeper understanding of housing production in Turkey. The Etiler case shows the continued role of cooperatives in Turkish housing production almost twenty years after the first housing cooperative was founded in Ankara. In addition, Etiler demonstrates the way cooperatives influenced the growth of Istanbul in previously undeveloped areas.
To give a sense the historical context in which the Etiler Cooperative was created, I discuss the debates over housing production in the 1930s, during the republic's early years, the housing cooperative's ideological connection to corporatism in the Turkish republic, and the legal basis of cooperatives. Following that, I tell the story of Etiler, analyzing its relationship with the Turkish legal system, urban development, and middle-class culture.
Housing Production in 1930s Ankara
A housing shortage in Ankara, the new capital of the Republic of Turkey, led policy makers and professionals to propose solutions that had a great impact on the future of housing production across the country. Istanbul, where the Etiler Cooperative would eventually be located, experienced a housing shortage only later, in the 1940s, when migration from rural areas to cities accelerated. However, the policy response to later, nationwide urban housing shortages followed the course set in the 1930s in Ankara. After Ankara was declared the republic's capital city in 1923, under the rule of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938), the founder and first president of the republic, the demographics of the city changed dramatically, as the number of government buildings increased along with the number of officials occupying them. The population of the city grew rapidly, from 74,553 in the 1927 census to 123,514 in the 1935 census. In his memoirs, Falih Rıfkı Atay (1894–1971), a Turkish journalist, portrays the Ankara of the 1920s as a dry and savage place with a local community that was unwelcoming toward newcomers. As Atay points out, one of the biggest challenges of the new republican government was to transform a poor and war-torn provincial city into a modern, green, and habitable central one.5 With the construction of new government buildings and the changing demographics of the city came a great demand for housing. There was a general consensus among the new residents of the city that there were not enough livable houses. The majority of the housing stock was within the old part of the city (Figure 2). These dwellings were not sufficient to satisfy the daily needs of newcomers moving from Istanbul, who were accustomed to modern facilities with access to services like electricity, clean water, and gas.6 In 1924 and 1925, the new government hired Carl Christoph Lörcher, a German architect at Keşfiyat ve İnşaat Türk Anonim şirketi (Turkish Surveying and Construction Company), a firm founded in 1908, to develop a master plan for Ankara; Lörcher began with the development of Yenişehir (New City).7 During the development of Yenişehir, to the south of the old city, the state provided cheap land to citizens to build their own houses and made construction activities tax-exempt. Nevertheless, neither state nor private contractors came up with any systematic approach for producing affordable housing for the masses.
In 1930s Ankara, the only real players in the housing sector were small entrepreneurs who invested their money in the construction of apartment buildings and made profits by renting out the units (Figure 3). As a result of the high demand for housing and the absence of institutions that might produce mass housing, small entrepreneurship in the housing sector had three outcomes: high rents, high land values, and uncontrolled development of the city. These outcomes were real concerns for intellectuals, professionals, and policy makers. In the periodicals of the time, solutions for the housing shortage and high rents were discussed extensively. One apparent result of the housing shortage, the low number of women living in Ankara, produced particular concern. The 1935 census found that the city was home to 74,632 male residents and only 48,882 female residents. According to Atay, high rents were the reason for this disparity, because government workers were not bringing their families with them to Ankara or were not getting married at all.8 Women and family life had a central place in the state's modernization agenda. As Sibel Bozdoğan points out, “The presence of women in public places was in itself a celebrated theme, ‘a gendering of the modern’ underscoring the Kemalists’ pride in having liberated Turkish women from the oppressive seclusion of tradition.”9 As a result of this ideological standing, the census findings and male-dominated public spaces were both undesirable outcomes for the new republic.
In November 1935, the newspaper Ulus conducted a survey regarding housing cooperatives. It posed six questions to members of the public: Which type of home is more desirable for government workers, houses in gardens or big apartment blocks? If houses in gardens are more desirable, should they be single-family homes or row houses? Who should own the homes, the occupants or government institutions? Who will benefit from the housing cooperatives the most? How should housing cooperatives finance their construction expenses? What are your thoughts about workers’ housing? The majority of the respondents thought that single-family houses in gardens owned by the users and constructed through housing cooperatives were the most desirable option.10 For them, a housing cooperative was a corporate form that gave individuals with similar needs and wishes a chance at homeownership by creating a mutual financial support system. Such an institution provided the only opportunity for “common people” to have homes of their own within a community of honest and respectable people.11
Cooperatives, especially agricultural, consumer, and retailer cooperatives, were institutions established in accordance with the corporatist ideology of the Republican People's Party (RPP).12 Under a corporatist system, society is organized into major groups that are integrated into the governmental system to achieve progress and to establish economic and social order. Corporatist ideology rejects both liberalism and Marxism and understands society as an organic whole consisting of mutually interdependent and functionally complementary parts. According to this understanding, individualism is disruptive to social equilibrium, and a classless society is better for the maintenance of the social system.13 In its 1931 program the RPP declared that Turkish society was a classless, holistic system and that the main principle for social organization was a division of labor into occupational groups, which were expected to work in harmony with each other.14 The RPP government saw housing cooperatives as a tool to create the harmony described in the party's corporatist program. The possibility of a corporatist society fit well into contemporary discussions about the nationalization of the economy and the protection of small businesses.15
Turkish intellectuals encountered corporatist thought through the works of Émile Durkheim, Louis de Brouckère, and Charles Gide. In particular, Durkheim's positivist sociology and his understanding of the concept of the division of labor were influential on the Turkish intellectuals of the time, especially Ziya Gökalp (1876–1924), who held the first chair of sociology at Istanbul University starting in 1912.16 According to Gökalp, labor groups, connected to each other by cooperatives, are crucial for social cohesion. Gökalp accepted class differences but did not believe that these differences should cause class conflict. He theorized that through occupational ethics and cooperative organizations, individuals would be a part of the nation and serve the national good.17 According to Taha Parla and Andrew Davison, Gökalp's understanding of corporatism “underwent some transformations within the ideological frame of the Kemalists, who maintained the solidaristic core formulated by Gökalp while also tinkering partly, but consciously, with distinctly fascistic corporatist tendencies.”18
With the Commercial Code (Türk Ticaret Kanunu) of 1926, cooperatives were institutionalized as formal legal entities and defined as corporations established to satisfy the needs of occupational groups through mutual support.19 The section of the code on cooperatives set out general principles about matters such as the foundation, management, and membership of cooperatives. No distinction was made in this version of the code among different types of cooperatives, such as agricultural, consumer, and housing. Because of the government's full control over the financial agencies that made loans to cooperatives, cooperatives became a form of semiprivate, semipublic enterprise. In 1931, the Cooperative Association of Turkey was founded on the order of Atatürk, who was a strong advocate of the cooperative movement. The Cooperative Association aimed to conduct research and publish books and pamphlets on corporatism and cooperatives in accordance with the RPP's program.20 In 1934, the association started to publish Karınca (Ant), a monthly magazine, to discuss issues relating to cooperatives. The majority of the articles in the magazine concentrated on the virtues of working together, forming partnerships, and contributing to the communal good. According to the writers of Karınca, every citizen could benefit from the ability to participate in productive partnerships in the form of cooperatives. The writers asserted that partnerships among citizens could promote class solidarity by making class differences invisible, and that these partnerships were necessary for the economic prosperity of the state and the modernization of the society.21 Economic and social development of the country through cooperatives was a top-down policy of the government. Its bureaucrats were responsible for the propagation of the idea by means of education and through the examples they set themselves. Against this ideological background, housing cooperatives were advocated as the optimal solution to the problems caused by the housing shortage.
The first housing cooperative, Bahçelievler Housing Cooperative in Ankara, was founded in 1934. The Bahçelievler settlement, 169 single-family homes with gardens, was designed by Hermann Jansen (1869–1945) and completed in 1938 (Figure 4). In 1929, Jansen had been commissioned by the government to design a master plan for Ankara, after Lörcher's plan had become outdated. The Bahçelievler Cooperative bought land on the western part of Yenişehir, outside the boundaries of Jansen's master plan. Since the settlement was constructed outside the city's limits, all necessary infrastructure, including asphalt roads, sewers, and water and electricity lines, was built with it. The construction of the community was financed by payments made by the members and by a mortgage from the Real Estate and Orphan Bank (Emlak ve Eytam Bankası) and Turkish Trade Inc. (Türk Ticaret Anonim şirketi).22 Bahçelievler's administrative framework and financing served as a model for subsequent housing cooperatives. Between 1934 and 1946, seventy-one housing cooperatives were founded in Turkey. Of these, twenty-seven were in Ankara and fifteen were in Istanbul. During this period only seven of them, all in Ankara, completed construction, producing a total of 554 single-family homes with gardens.23
Despite the fact that Bahçelievler influenced both the legal structure and the architectural form of later cooperatives, it did not introduce a real alternative to the small entrepreneurs who controlled the Turkish housing sector. Instead, housing cooperatives, formed as small-scale corporations, joined the housing sector as a new type of entrepreneurship that furthered land speculation and increases in housing prices. According to a news article from 1936, after Bahçelievler purchased its land, the value of the surrounding area rose to five hundred times the original value. The article's author approved of this increase in land value, noting that it would have a positive effect on the value of the houses and that a rise in house values would make it easier for people to find loans with low interest rates.24 In this example we see that land speculation in Ankara had expanded into a new area of the city. In Bahçelievler, the monthly payments for the houses were not lower than rents in Ankara, and they were not affordable for low- or mid-ranked government workers.25 While professionals and policy makers introduced the cooperatives as a model for affordable housing, Bahçelievler did not offer a viable model for the people who most needed institutional and financial support.
Starting in the early 1940s, professionals in different segments of Turkish society—architects, urban planners, policy makers, and academics—criticized these flaws of cooperatives.26 For example, the speculative character of Turkish housing cooperatives was criticized by Ernst Reuter (1889–1953), an urban planner from Germany who lectured at Ankara University's Faculty of Political Science and served as consultant to the government while living in exile in Turkey. Reuter argued that, because the main objective of cooperative members was profit, these settlements did not make any positive contribution to housing development in Turkish cities. Instead of the existing model, he proposed that the government should concentrate on the construction of housing cooperatives that would be legally owned by the government or by private agencies and rented out to people in need, with rents set below market rates.27 The system he proposed resembled that developed by the Weimar Republic. Even though there were financial obstacles in Germany, this approach was a relatively successful means of supplying housing to the German working class and low-wage earners.28 However, as records of discussions in parliament at the time show, Turkish policy makers were not concerned with providing housing to low-wage earners; rather, they were focused on housing the new bureaucrats of the Republic in modern facilities with fashionable design.29
In the early 1940s, the country began to face new migration from rural areas to the big cities. The majority of the newcomers were agricultural workers. Unlike the government workers who moved to Ankara in the mid-1920s, they did not have predefined roles waiting for them. They were the outcasts of society. This migration—an outcome of population growth and the negative impact of World War II on the Turkish economy—introduced policy makers and professionals to a new urban reality: squatter settlements, or shantytowns (gecekondu).30 The rapid sprawl of squatter settlements was most visible in Ankara and Istanbul (Figure 5). In her research on the history of gecekondu in Ankara, Tansı şenyapılı found that dwellers in these residential areas could be divided into three groups. The first group consisted of people with enough capital to finance construction of their houses on occupied land. They had the means to buy the necessary building materials, and in some cases they had enough capital to hire workers to help with construction. The members of this group were mostly low-income civil servants and their families. The second group of inhabitants consisted of tenants who rented houses from individuals in the first group. They mostly had regular incomes but not enough capital to build their own houses. The third group of residents consisted of people with no regular income or capital. Those in this group used scavenged materials to build temporary shelters.31
The rapid increase in gecekondu shaped urban policy and housing production in a new way. In 1948, there were approximately 20,000 squatter houses in Turkey. This number increased steadily, to 80,000 in 1953, 240,000 in 1960, and 500,000 in 1970.32 As these figures show, the need for housing grew rapidly, and the cities faced a real housing shortage. Policy makers debated the appropriate answers to this problem at great length and passed several laws to address it: the Real Estate and Credit Bank Law in 1946, the Law Enabling the Ankara Municipality to Allocate and Transfer Part of Its Land under Special Circumstances in 1948, the Law for the Promotion of Building Construction in 1948, and the Old Age Insurance Act in 1949.33 With these laws, policy makers aimed at expanding the operational scope of agencies and institutions involved in housing production. They tried to improve the building materials industry and to facilitate the distribution of building materials to the whole country. In addition, these laws were expected to provide a way for cities to integrate illegal housing into the legal housing stock. At the beginning, the laws indicate, policy makers perceived legalizing illegal housing as a short-term, temporary way to alleviate the housing problem while the state and municipalities worked on more permanent solutions. The permanent solutions were designed around two approaches for solving the housing shortage: regulating the production of small, cheap houses and encouraging municipalities to produce housing by giving them financial and administrative independence. The policy makers also adopted the goal of merging all institutions involved in the production of housing under a single administrative system. The fragmentation of the administrative system was one of the subjects professionals had raised in their criticisms of the government.34 The policy makers were partially successful in merging the different institutions under one umbrella institution, but they did not succeed in passing laws to encourage production of affordable housing in large amounts. Legalizing illegal housing was ultimately adopted as a populist way of solving the housing shortage problem: the temporary solution became a permanent one. In 1952, when the Ministry of Economy and Commerce approved the legally binding contract of the Etiler Housing Cooperative, the housing shortage was a problem not only for low-income middle-class government workers in Ankara but also for workers of all kinds with low or irregular income in Ankara, Istanbul, and Izmir.
The Legal Basis for the Etiler Housing Cooperative
The story of the Etiler Housing Cooperative, like that of other housing cooperatives in Turkey, started with the approval of its legally binding contract by the Ministry of Economy and Commerce on 17 May 1951.35 This approval was the first step in the process established by the Commercial Code of 1926, which required that a cooperative have at least seven founding members.36 Etiler was founded by ten members, six of whom were middle- to high-ranking government officials working at Eti Bank, a state bank focused on financing the electricity sector. The rest of the members consisted of a member of parliament, a bureaucrat from İş Bankası (a public bank and premier financial institution of Turkey), a merchant, and a contractor. After the approval of the contract, the founding members of the Etiler Cooperative accepted new members, bought land, and hired an architect.
The legally binding contract served as the road map for all of the cooperative's subsequent activities, and the Commercial Code regulated the overall structure of this contract. However, the code's provisions for cooperative contracts did not make distinctions between different kinds of cooperatives. For that reason, the founders of the Bahçelievler Housing Cooperative wrote the first housing cooperative contract with the consultation of Gerhard Kessler (1883–1963), a political scientist and sociologist who had emigrated from Germany to Turkey in 1933 and who taught sociology at Istanbul University between 1933 and 1951.37 This first example of a housing cooperative contract defined the structure of later cooperative contracts, from how the land would be purchased to how and when the houses would be renovated. As a result of the lack of specific provisions in the Commercial Code for housing cooperatives, those founded subsequently adapted the Bahçelievler contract according to their own needs, but the overall tone and provisions of the original contract persisted.
The contract defined the cooperative as a corporation with a limited life span and a limited aim. In many cases, the life span of the cooperative was twenty years; there are also examples with life spans of fifteen or thirty years. All housing cooperatives aimed to provide homeownership to their members by obtaining loans to finance the construction of a housing development. According to the contracts, the members were responsible to each other until the end of the last loan payment. Etiler's life span was fixed at thirty years. The cooperative's aim, as stated in the contract, was to construct a settlement on land to be purchased on the outskirts of Bebek or Arnavutköy, historic villages on the European side of the Bosphorus. All the founding members of the cooperative lived and worked in Ankara, not Istanbul. It seems likely that their main reason for establishing this cooperative was as an investment, rather than as a means to purchase primary homes.
According to the Commercial Code, the responsibility for managing a cooperative was divided among three bodies: the General Assembly, the Administrative Council, and the Audit Committee. The General Assembly included all the members of the cooperative. The Administrative Council and the Audit Committee were composed of representatives elected by the other members. The Administrative Council was the most powerful component of the management system. It was responsible for accepting new members, buying land, and making choices about communal areas such as playgrounds, social clubs, and sports centers. The Administrative Council also made decisions about design. The council members had the power to change the site plan, the overall design of the homes, and the numbers of rooms within the homes. This gave them a chance to realize their vision of a community made up of homes appropriate for their social status.38 According to the contract of the Etiler Cooperative, seven of the ten founding members were appointed as the first Administrative Council. They were responsible for purchasing the most appropriate land for the complex, consulting architects, subdividing the land into individual parcels, and getting the necessary permissions from the Municipality of Istanbul for this subdivision. In addition, the contract authorized the council to buy more land than was necessary for the housing with the intent of selling the surplus land for profit in the name of the cooperative.
Cooperative contracts also specified the preferred residents of the cooperatives. While the majority of the contracts written before the 1940s specifically mentioned the goal of providing homeownership to midlevel and high-ranking managers of government agencies, the contracts written after the 1940s targeted a wider range of the middle class.39 This aspect of the contracts caused a certain type of social segregation. Under the section on membership, one article specified the qualities required of members; the quality most often mentioned was having a good reputation in the community. In addition, the founding contracts required that members be “Turks.” It is not clear whether this requirement was intended to be understood in an ethnic sense or in the legal sense of Turkish citizenship. Many, if not all, of the cooperatives included such requirements in their contracts. The contract of the Etiler Cooperative was no different: the founding members were looking for Turks with good reputations in the community.40
Planning and Design of the Etiler Housing Cooperative
The Administrative Council of Etiler bought the first piece of land, a 71,009-square-meter parcel, in January 1952. As prescribed in the contract, the council found the land on the outskirts of Bebek, outside the urbanized areas of Istanbul and the boundaries of the municipality. The land was on the top of Bebek Hill and had an expansive view of the Bosphorus. The Administrative Council purchased it for 93,200 Turkish liras (TL), or 1.3 TL for each square meter, at a sealed-bid auction from the state.41 Originally this land was owned by the Treasury of the Turkish state, which offered it to the Municipality of Istanbul under terms established by the Law for the Promotion of Building Construction, enacted in 1948 as part of a series of laws concerning gecekondu.42 Under this law, “if the municipalities wished, the state lands not earmarked for a specific purpose could be transferred to the municipalities. Municipalities were enabled to allocate land to those who wanted to build their own houses.”43 This was the second law passed on the subject of squatter housing, and its purpose was to prevent the development of new shantytowns.
In the case of the land purchased by Etiler, according to a press release from the Ministry of Finance, the ministry had offered the land to the Municipality of Istanbul, but the municipality did not respond to the offer, and the ministry then put the land up for auction.44 The newspaper Ulus claimed that two cabinet members of the Democrat Party, Kemal Zeytinoğlu, minister of public works, and Hasan Polatkan, minister of finance, were also members of the cooperative and that they used their influence to make this auction happen to benefit the Etiler Housing Cooperative.45 The ministers denied the claim, and it was never proven. After the purchase of this first piece of land, Etiler evidently bought additional parcels, because the total land area under the cooperative's control in 1952 was approximately 350,000 square meters.46 The proposed site plan of the settlement was significantly larger than this, showing that the members had planned to buy more land but for some reason did not. In the cooperative's annual report of 1956, the members of the Administrative Council complained that the previous members of the council (who were expelled from the cooperative in 1955 as a result of misconduct) did not buy extra land beyond that needed for the cooperative as proposed by the contract.47 This lack of extra land was a problem for the members because construction costs were higher than expected and they needed extra income. Even though the surrounding area's land value was increasing rapidly, the members of the cooperative missed their chance to make any profit from this increase.
Before the construction of the cooperative, the area was mostly covered with woods, agricultural fields, and a dairy. Maps from 1926 show that the area was connected to Bebek village on the waterside and to a provincial road (Büyükdere Caddesi) on the west (Figure 6). When the cooperative was built, the surrounding country lanes were reconstructed as the main arteries with approximately the same layout.48 In 1956, the Istanbul Municipality announced the new development plan of the Beyoğlu region as part of government-initiated reconstruction works that were implemented between 1956 and 1960.49 According to the announcement, Etiler was to be incorporated into the municipality when Istanbul's boundaries expanded.50 In 1958, Büyükdere was reconstructed as the major north–south axis of the city, the Maslak-Beşiktaş highway, and connected Etiler to the city center.
The Administrative Council commissioned Kemal Ahmet Aru, an influential architect, urban designer, and academician, to design the subdivision. When he was hired as the lead architect of the community, he was already famous for his development plans for major cities in Turkey and for his 1947 design for Levent, a development to the west of Etiler that featured 391 single-family houses with gardens (Figure 7). Levent was the first settlement of a series of housing developments constructed by the Istanbul Reconstruction Limited Company (İstanbul İmar Limited şirketi). This company was founded in 1946 as a partnership of the Real Estate and Credit Bank of Turkey (Türkiye Emlak ve Kredi Bankası) and the Municipality of Istanbul with the purpose of solving the city's housing shortage problem by constructing mass housing settlements. This partnership was the first serious attempt on the part of governmental agencies to produce affordable housing for the masses. The Real Estate and Credit Bank Law (1946) made this partnership possible. However, this initiative did not introduce a new kind of mass housing that could attract different segments of the society. Levent was produced as a modernist complex with single-family houses in gardens for middle-class homeowners, like the previous examples.51 Aru designed Levent's site plan according to Zeilenbau planning strategies. The concept of Zeilenbau, a German term applied to multistory housing arranged in parallel rows without regard to topography, was introduced into Turkey by German academicians and professionals who did work for the Turkish government after being forced to immigrate to Turkey during the Nazi period.52
In his site plan for Etiler, however, Aru used the existing roads without altering them and designed a street system that accorded with the topography of the site (Figure 8). He laid out the house lots and the streets that connect the houses to the main roads.53 His special attention to topography demonstrates a contrast with Levent's linear design. Aru's understanding of residential planning may have changed in 1949 as a result of an eight-month academic trip he took to Europe to study postwar housing developments; this experience led to his publishing a book on the housing issues of postwar Europe in 1950.54 While the book does not discuss the trip's influence on Aru's design method, I think his designs after the 1950s manifest a distinct change of approach.
According to a promotional publication for the Etiler Housing Cooperative, Aru's plan included 214 houses. But in 1952, the cooperative invited bids from construction firms for the building of 170 houses.55 In the end, the cooperative built 191 houses (Figure 9). There are no known detailed records of the design and construction process, but the fragmented information available suggests that it involved many revisions. For the development Aru designed nine different house types (Figure 10). Eight of these were single-family houses with gardens. One type was a single building with two separate apartments (Figure 11). The smallest type had three rooms and a floor area of 124 square meters. The biggest type had six rooms and a floor area of 313 square meters (Figure 12).56 With their gardens, these houses occupied from 500 to 900 square meters of land. Both the floor areas and the organization of the plans were typical of housing cooperatives of this era. The domestic circulation was designed around a hierarchical arrangement of public and private areas. Public areas like living and dining rooms were placed at the center of the house and were separated from private areas like bedrooms and kitchens with hallways and stairways. In addition, these houses were designed with maid rooms adjacent to the kitchens, a typical feature of middle-class houses.57 During the 1940s and 1950s, the typical size of a house for a family in the planned settlements built for workers in state-owned factories was between 60 and 90 square meters.58 However, lack of information on the average sizes of different kinds of houses and the numbers of their occupants makes an accurate comparison difficult. We only know that in the squatter neighborhoods, which were spreading rapidly around the historic core of the city, the houses were smaller while the numbers of occupants were higher.59
Aru designed the houses in the “Turkish house” style, with pitched roofs, wide eaves, deep balconies or verandas, slim rectangular pillars, and high chimneys (Figures 13 and 14). The modernist Turkish house style was a creation of Sedad Hakkı Eldem, one of the most influential instructors of architectural design at the Institute of Fine Arts, who had conducted detailed studies of old houses from all around Turkey, from the wooden Istanbul yalı to adobe Kütahya houses.60 As Sibel Bozdoğan and Esra Akcan point out, “The residential culture of early republican Turkey was caught between temptation for Western living models and a simultaneous aspiration for a unique Turkish identity.”61 Cooperative settlements with single-family houses designed in the Turkish house style represented a conception of modernity among the urban middle classes, with which the Etiler Cooperative was compatible.
German émigré architects and urban planners had an important influence on the middle-class concept of the modern Turkish house. For instance, in 1934, Gerhard Kessler published a book in Turkish on modern urban planning theories, in which he asserted that a person who grew up as a tenant in an apartment block would never have a chance to learn what a family home is.62 For Kessler, such people could turn into class-conscious proletarians very easily, and their anger at class distinctions might put the country in danger. He went on to add that the real citizens of the cities are the people who own their homes. To support his case, he claimed that cities like Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and Saint Petersburg, which had excessive numbers of apartments, were filled with rebels throughout their histories, while cities like London, Brussels, and Amsterdam developed with single-family homes and had more peaceful histories. In articles on housing issues Turkish professionals and policy makers used Kessler's precise words repeatedly.63 They used Kessler's ideas as a point of reference, sometimes without mentioning his name. Gustav Oelsner (1879–1956), who had emigrated from Germany to Istanbul in 1939 and who worked at the Ministry of Public Works and at Istanbul Technical University, also influenced public and professional attitudes toward the house. From 1943 through 1948, Oelsner published thirteen articles in Arkitekt, an influential magazine on architecture, on issues such as urban planning methods and policies, modern houses, and housing settlements.64 He advocated building garden cities as residential areas, separated from the city centers by greenbelts. Oelsner acknowledged that it was a disadvantage to be away from urban spaces like cafés, theaters, and restaurants in a garden city. He concluded that despite this drawback, the advantages of a home with a garden are essential to a family's daily life, therefore, this form of dwelling should be preferred. In Oelsner's view, in communities composed of single-family homes, families live peacefully and freely, children grow up happy and untroubled, men find tranquility through garden work, and homes look beautiful with their displays of flowers from the gardens.65 During the years 1943–49 Aru was Oelsner's student and assistant at Istanbul Technical University. Oelsner had a great influence on Aru's understanding of urban planning and architectural design. In his memoirs, Aru says that he learned how to design master plans for Turkish cities from Oelsner.66
Financing the Etiler Housing Cooperative
Under the terms of its founding contract, Etiler had three sources of income with which to finance the construction of the development. The first was the membership fee, set at 200 TL. The second source was the members’ advance contributions to the construction expenses. This payment covered 15 percent of the building cost and had to be paid before the beginning of the construction. The members also paid the cost of the land. According to the contract, members were responsible for additional expenses related to the construction, including those for roads, sewers, clean water and electric systems, landscaping, a playground, a cinema, shops, and a communal center. On the site plan there are no clear indications of communal places, but according to the annual report from 1954, shops, a police station, an elementary school, and a social center were part of the construction plan.67 The third source of income was the loan from the Real Estate and Credit Bank. Until 1946, when a new law changed the bank's name (it was originally the Real Estate and Orphan Bank) and legal purpose and procedures, it offered loans to cooperatives at an interest rate of 8.5 percent, but the bank's governing law did not specify a maximum amount for any given loan.68 The professionals and academics who commented on housing policy regarded 8.5 percent as a very high interest rate—the corresponding rate in European countries was around 2 to 3 percent—and they criticized the lack of regulation of financing. For example, in 1944, Abidin Mortaş, an architect, wrote that high interest rates and the unregulated system of loans were resulting in excessive, unpredictable construction costs. In addition, he claimed that many founding members of the cooperatives were not able to keep up with these costs and as a result had to sell their shares to people with higher incomes.69
In a 1944 article, Muhlis Ete, a professor of economics, warned policy makers that the housing cooperatives were becoming a new opportunity for investors to make profits.70 A new Real Estate and Credit Bank law, passed by parliament in 1946, reduced the interest rate of construction loans to 5 percent. In addition, the maximum loan amount was set at 75 percent of the construction value.71 These were important improvements from the perspective of cooperatives, but the legal system regulating the actions of the cooperatives was still the same. The need for a new legal regime and the possibility of making the changes needed to achieve it were the main subjects of the Second National Convention of Cooperatives in 1947. The participants prepared a draft law to replace the existing regulations governing cooperatives, but this proposal did not provoke any reaction from the parliament.72 In 1948, the Law for the Promotion of Building Construction established cooperatives as one of the Real Estate and Credit Bank's priorities. According to Article 11 of this law, the bank was responsible for providing financial support to cooperatives. In order to benefit from this support, however, the members of a cooperative could not already own homes in the same city where the cooperative was active.73
The Administrative Council of Etiler applied to the Real Estate and Credit Bank for financing under this law in 1952. The cooperative satisfied the conditions of the law: first, its members did not own houses in Istanbul—as discussed above, the founding members lived in Ankara—and second, it was a cooperative with the purpose of homeownership. The application was accepted. The bank estimated a value for each house between 47,160 TL for the smallest type and 64,000 TL for the biggest type, and gave a loan of 6 million TL for the construction of 170 houses.74 The annual report of 1956 states that the cooperative accepted twenty-one additional members after approval of the loan, but it does not give any information on these new members. The construction costs were higher than planned, however, and the credit amount was raised to 7.5 million TL, 75 percent of the new estimated construction cost of 10 million TL. The annual report of 1954 states that the cooperative decided not to construct buildings for communal activities because of the high expenses, but the construction of an elementary school and a police station continued.75 According to the annual report of 1956, the construction was still in progress at that time, and the total cost of the construction had risen to 15 million TL.76 Because the construction ended up costing more than originally estimated, even the cooperative's middle- and upper-middle-class members had difficulty with the continuously increasing payments.77
One of the most controversial members of the cooperative was Mükerrem Sarol (1909–95), a member of parliament as a Democrat Party deputy from 1950 to 1960. In 1954, Sarol was accused of two violations relating to his membership in the Etiler Housing Cooperative: obtaining extra and unlawful credit from the Real Estate and Credit Bank, and using his political influence to import more iron than was needed for construction of the cooperative to sell on the black market.78 In 1956, these claims were investigated in parliament, and the inquiry committee found him guiltless.79 However, Sarol's house in the cooperative's settlement was remarkably different from the nine regular types. According to his defense in the parliamentary minutes, he became a member of the cooperative in order to own a modest house and get a credit of 40,000 TL from the Real Estate and Credit Bank. But he ended up with a steeper plot of land as a result of the lottery that assigned plots to the members before construction. Because of this, he claimed, it became necessary to spend more money on his house than on the other houses of the cooperative. According to the report of the inquiry committee, the final cost of Sarol's house was 240,000 TL—200,000 TL more than the original estimate. The facts did not support other aspects of his testimony. For instance, his house, which was located on approximately 5,000 square meters of land at the south tip of the development, was not a part of the original settlement plan (Figure 15). The house, around 700 square meters in size, was designed in a modernist style unlike the Turkish house style of the nine house types used in the rest of the settlement plan: slim triangular concrete slabs supported wider triangular slabs in an arrangement that created wide window openings (Figure 16). A small swimming pool was also a part of this house. According to Sarol's testimony in the 1956 investigation, he transferred the house to a new member of the cooperative in 1954, after Sarol was accused of abusing his power. But according to a news article in 1961, after the military coup against the Democrat Party government, the house was among the properties belonging to Sarol that were confiscated by the military government.80 In the late 1970s, a private contracting company bought the land and the house, and in 1996 it demolished the house in the process of constructing a subdivision of luxurious houses on the land.81
As far I have been able to determine, neither Sarol's house nor its architect, whose identity is unknown to me, was ever featured in any of the architectural magazines, despite the house's distinctive appearance. But the house, with its modernist and luxurious features and astonishing view of the Bosphorus, plays an important role in a cult movie from 1962, Metin Erksan's Acı Hayat (Bitter Life). This film provides views of the interior and exterior of the house, which is represented as the most appropriate place for the heartless but newly rich protagonist to live after he loses his love to the schemes of a man with inherited wealth and social status. This depiction also shows a changing perception toward modernist space during the socialist 1960s.
In late 1957, the members of the cooperative started to move into their houses. With the construction of the Maslak-Beşiktaş highway in 1958, the settlement had a better transportation connection to the city center, but even in the late 1960s it was not adequate to the demand. In a 1961 letter to the newspaper Cumhuriyet, a resident complained about how the insufficient number of buses negatively affected her daily commute to work.82 Aydın Boysan, an architect who moved his office to Etiler in 1966, mentions in his memoirs that during the winter months, especially when it was snowing, the roads that connected Etiler and Levent to the city center were often blocked, preventing people from returning to their homes at night.83 Despite these obstacles, the area continued to develop rapidly after the construction of the Etiler community, with newly constructed apartment buildings on one side and a swiftly spreading gecekondu neighborhood, Rumelihisarüstü, on the other side (Figure 17).
The Rumelihisarüstü neighborhood comprised the two previously independent settlements of Nafi Baba and Baltalimanı. Nafi Baba was located on formerly state-owned land that had been transferred to the municipality. In 1958, a group of low-paid employees at Robert College, located on what is now the Boğaziçi University campus, and other workers invaded the land and set up their dwellings.84 In two days, they erected twenty to thirty houses. To assure the continuity of the squatter area, the founders then sought to attract more people to the site. The settlement installed its own sewer system with house connections, and this system was extralegally connected to the city sewer system, which drained into the sea. In 1965, Rumelihisarüstü had about four hundred dwellings. In 1971, the neighborhood was declared an improvement area by the municipality, and this official act permitted it to acquire electricity and water utilities. In 1973, the population of the neighborhood was 6,793; by 1975, it had increased to 11,000. Etiler was the major transportation hub for the residents of this area. The Rumelihisarüstü neighborhood was permanently legalized in late 1970s.85
Meanwhile, apartment buildings were rising one by one around Etiler. After the beginning of the construction of the Etiler Housing Cooperative, the owners of neighboring land placed sale advertisements in the newspapers that mentioned Etiler as a selling point.86 In the 1956 Beyoğlu master plan, the area surrounding the cooperative settlement was named for Etiler. In 1957, Garanti Bank, a privately owned bank founded in 1946, started construction on a new neighborhood through its construction company.87 However, it completed only 40 of the planned 1,000 units, in two apartment blocks. In İstanbul Ansiklopedisi, Reşad Ekrem Koçu lists eight more housing settlements with 441 apartment units in Etiler in the 1970s.88 Now the area is a heavily built-up neighborhood with both apartment buildings and single-family houses, and it is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Istanbul.
The speculative character of the Etiler Housing Cooperative clearly reveals the weakness of the regulations on housing cooperatives and urban space during the early decades of the Republic of Turkey. Policy makers’ ideological understanding of the society created an unsuccessful model of housing cooperatives as an affordable option for the masses. According to these policy makers’ ideological categories, Turkish society consisted of three major groups: urbanized government workers, rural agricultural workers, and the semirural, semiurbanized labor force of the state-owned industries. In the 1930s, the housing shortage was a problem of urbanized government workers in Ankara, and regulations targeted their needs. But in the 1950s, while the Etiler Housing Cooperative was constructing a luxurious neighborhood with state funding, the housing shortage was a problem of the impoverished masses of the cities, who did not belong to any of these three categories.
Starting from the late 1940s, policy makers and professionals searched for ways to provide housing for the masses and to improve the quality of life in large cities. But it was not clear whose needs they were trying to satisfy. In many cases, they seemed to neglect the possibility that diverse social groups faced different problems. Instead, they employed the same laws and regulations in an effort to satisfy all types of housing demands: the demands of relatively high-income groups for large houses with rooms for each member of the family and vacation houses along the coast for weekends and holidays; the demands of lower-income groups for healthy environments, municipal services, affordability, and easy connection to the city center; and the demands of new migrants for the most basic urban housing. The members of this last group had the weakest connections with governmental agencies and the lowest chances of getting social security assistance. They were also the least visible from the perspective of the discussions of policy makers, professionals, and parliamentarians, and the least recognized in the laws that resulted from these discussions.