Istanbul’s Walled Neighborhoods

Walking through New York City recently I was struck by how quickly the neighborhoods changed. I think we walked south on Bowery from Chris’ school, the Cooper Union, in the East Village. Block by block we made it through Little Italy and Chinatown, and a few less well branded, transitional neighborhoods. The variation of the character of the streets was so fast and so distinct. Every few blocks could see I was in a new place. I’ve been to NYC a bunch over my life, walking some of the same streets. This observation was so strong because I’d traveled there from Istanbul.


Of course Istanbul has distinct neighborhoods, there is no doubt that the twisting pathways that make up Eminönü have a much different character to İstiklal Avenue, a wide boulevard with a cable car track running down it. But you have to walk a lot longer distance in Istanbul to notice the shift in neighborhoods. Maybe it’s my foreignness but I don’t see abrupt shifts of character as clearly as in my home country. I returned to Istanbul with this question on my mind, what makes this difference?

I was glad to read then this short essay on Istanbul’s 1000 or so walled neighborhoods, called site (like see-tay). Like tiny cities all to themselves., complex of high-rise apartment buildings offices and restaurants, wrapped around a green space.

From the domestic garden, to the local mosque, to a district’s central Külliye, Ottoman life was often framed by singular pieces of architecture. As opposed to our binary understanding of inside and outside or private and public, social relationships were defined by the walls that form a community.

Read more here. Microcities as Megaprojects