The Transformation of the Center
Described in the 17th and 18th centuries as a region comprised of a water distribution center, coffee houses, promenades and cemeteries determined by the borders of the Pera district, Taksim achieved a military function with the construction of the Artillery Barracks in the early 19th century. It was transformed into one of the most powerful representative spaces of the Republic, the new regime that was expediently constructed from the second quarter of the 20th century onwards. Rather than the Historical Peninsula, which reflected Istanbul's Byzantine and Ottoman identity, it's not surprising that the state chose the Beyoğlu-Taksim region to create a modern, new identity with its apartments, shopping centers and entertainment arcades where the first attempt of urbanization was applied. It wanted to commence its social mobility in the capital with the spatial transformation of Taksim.
Having developed around the Republic Monument, the square is eventually encircled by the Taksim Promenade and Garden, the modern apartments in Talimhane and the Atatürk Culture Center (AKM).
Taksim Republic Square has unfurled its banner as the center of Istanbul's collective social and cultural memory, reverberating public expression, as well as celebrating national holidays from the 1920’s right on up to the present day.
the Promenade to the Square…
The flat area bordered on the west side by the Taksim Water Works depot and distribution center was utilized as a promenade area during Ottoman times from the mid-18th century onwards. The eastern portion of this area replete with a Bosphorus view, which took in the totally eradicated Ayaspaşa Cemetery within its borders, as well as a coffeehouse operated by imperial palace guards, can be seen in an engraving by Antoine-Ignace Melling in 1819.
The military structure that was commissioned by Selim III for the army's artillery units, was completed in 1806 for the gate guard troops, was known as the “Topçu Kışlası / Beyoğlu Kışlası / Taksim Kışlası.” This marked the northern border of the square that subsequently took shape. These barracks sustained heavy damage during the Kabakçı Revolt (1807) which exploded onto the scene just a year after the structure was inaugurated. Documents found in the Prime Ministry Ottoman Archives indicate that Mahmud II appointed imperial chief architect, Hafız Mehmed Emin Agha and foremen Marki, Nikola and Komyanos to rebuild the barracks in 1812.
The Taksim Artillery Corps Barracks were renovated in 1812 by Sultan Mahmud (1817) by Michel-François Préault (Préaulx/Préaux)İstanbul Research Institute
An engraving by Préaulx included in Charles Pertusier’s album published in 1817 depicts the way the barracks looked after this renovation job. The final appearance of the barracks structure which saw more repair work in 1847, 1862 and 1893, reiterates the layout of 19th century Ottoman barracks: A rectangular courtyard with a mosque in the center surrounded with two-storey wings, as well as three-storey tower-like masses positioned in the corners. Countering the bare expression of the Empiric-style that dominates the facades, the entry, which opens westward (onto Cumhuriyet Caddesi) features traces of the Orientalist-style and most likely took on its current shape during the renovation carried out during the reign of Abdülaziz (1861-1876).
Artillerymen in front of the stables of the Artillery Corps Barracks (1900)İstanbul Research Institute
Turkish troops parading in front of the Artillery Corps Barracks in the official ceremony marking the Liberation of İstanbul (1923-10-06)İstanbul Research Institute
A victory arch at the entrance of Cadde-i Kebir (İstiklâl Avenue) inscribed with the words 'Long Live the Army' in Ottoman-Arabic script (1923/1928)İstanbul Research Institute
Artillery Corps Barracks
Due to the particular interest in football, the Artillery Corps Barracks began to be utilized as a stadium with the initiative of Turkey's first sports announcer, Çelebizade Said Tevfik Bey (Sait Çelebi) in 1921. It was the first stadium in İstanbul.
The monumental entrance of the Artillery Corps Barracks (late-19th century) by Guillaume Berggrenİstanbul Research Institute
A military ceremony held at the Training Field (Talimhane) in front of the Artillery Corps Barracks (pre-1922)İstanbul Research Institute
Track & Field at Taksim Stadium (1922)İstanbul Research Institute
The matches between Turkish teams and English and French occupation units brought the house down; Fenerbahçe defeated the English team 2-1 to win the General Harrington Cup, creating an ecstatic air as if the captive İstanbulites had won a national victory. The first match of the National Team was played here against Romania on 26 October, 1923.
The 1st Youth and Sports Day at Taksim Stadium (1928-05-19)İstanbul Research Institute
The stadium remained intact with the financial support of the Galatasaray and Güneş sports clubs, serving a sort of field of these clubs until it was demolished in 1940.
A wrestling competition at Taksim Stadium (1929)İstanbul Research Institute
Besides football, the stadium also hosted 19 May celebrations, as well as several sports branches like wrestling, track & field, boxing and field hockey.
A shark that was caught in the Marmara Sea is displayed at Taksim Stadium (late-1920’s)İstanbul Research Institute
The area was also used for events of a different nature...
like a display of this impressive shark caught in the Marmara Sea.
Thrillseekers rented motorcycles from the Training Grounds (Talimhane) (late-1920’s) by Salahaddin Gizİstanbul Research Institute
Spectators at Taksim Stadium (1925)İstanbul Research Institute
The Republic Monument
A commission chaired by İstanbul Deputy Hakkı Şinasi Pasha was formed for the creation of the Republic Monument in 1925. This commission applied to the Italian sculptor, academician, composer and politician, Pietro Canonica (1869-1959), who had designed the Ghazi Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) statue in front of the Museum of Ethnography in Ankara. Work on the monument commenced with the approval of the Ministry of Education on 1 December, 1926. Various debates regarding the monument's qualities ensued as it was originally planned to just depict Gazi Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk).
Unveiling of the Republic Monument conducted by the Chairman of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, Kâzım (Özalp) Pasha (1928-08-08) by Salahaddin Giz.İstanbul Research Institute
Upon Canonica’s recommendation, it was decided to have the monument symbolize the War of Independence as well as The Republic.
The Republic Monument with the half-demolished stables of the Taksim Artillery Corps Barracks in the background (1928/1929) by Ali Enis Ozaİstanbul Research Institute
Due to insufficient state appropriations for this project, the cost of this work was paid for through donations made by İstanbul's Moslem and non-Moslem individuals and institutions. Canonica was paid 16,500 pounds sterling for his masterpiece.
A New Tradition: Ceremonies
With the erection of the Republic Monument, İstanbul had now acquired a proper ceremonial and gathering grounds that represented the new regime; these grounds were to become the scene of frequent visits of national and international guests and War of Independence celebrations.
On a national day, the Orphanage League officials and children in front of the Water Station as they walk towards the Republic Monument (1930)İstanbul Research Institute
Nonetheless, this space proved to be insufficient and the razing of the Artillery Corps Barrack, an Ottoman remnant that dominated the square as well as the re-zoning of the land beneath was frequently brought up on the agenda up until the year 1940.
In 1936, the famous architect and urbanist Henri Prost was appointed as per the request of the city administration to come up with İstanbul’s city plan. Prost first re-arranged Sultanahmet Square, then he tackled Cumhuriyet Square after some impossibilities entered the picture. He recommended that Cumhuriyet Square become the public's new ceremony and gathering grounds.
Prost proposed the Artillery Corps Barracks be replaced with a terrace that opened onto the square with a promenade park behind it. Amongst his designs were a viewing terrace that would be created by tearing down the Ottoman State Bank management housing and the adjacent buildings, as well as a grand theater building which would be transformed later on into the Atatürk Culture Center (AKM).
İstanbul's first public park
As İstanbul's first public park, Taksim Gardens was opened in 1869. It was redesigned by Henri Prost in a free-flowing arrangement with twisting paths that would offer contrast to the geometric order of İnönü Gezisi. The Belediye Gazinosu was designed by architect Rüknettin Güney and constructed in the northeast corner of this park. Taksim Gardens is connected to No.2 Park, which stretches between Harbiye, Maçka and Dolmabahçe, via a footbridge. Henri Prost created a promenade park in the middle of new residential settlements unfettered by vehicular traffic.
Aerial view of Taksim and vicinity (1960)İstanbul Research Institute
Aerial view of Taksim and vicinity in the 1960s.
Curators: Ekrem Işın, Catherine Pinguet
Coordinators: Zeynep Ögel, Erkan Bora, Gülru Tanman
Translation: Melis Şeyhun Çalışlar
Digital Adaptation: Irmak Wöber, Başak Arifoğlu , Umut Koca