Tourists traveling today to the great city of Istanbul will be finding it harder to frame with their cameras and mobile phones the image that the age-old city has had up to very recently: that of a vast, dense, and ancient hamlet marked by the vertical play of the domes and minarets of Hagia Sophia and the numerous other mosques that through the centuries have gone up in its image and likeness. The culprit here is a luxury apartmemt development whose three towers (rising 27, 32, and 37 floors, slightly over a hundred meters tall) are bursting onto the historical Byzantine and Ottoman horizon as an unbearable eyesore.
The process leading to this situation has apparently been full of irregularities, bringing to mind Spanish cases like Torre Pelli of Seville and Hotel Algarrobico. Back in the year 2007, the Turkish state sold the land on which the towers stand for an amount of close to 100 million euros. This took place shortly before the area was zoned for commercial use. The truth is that City Hall authorities changed plans immediately afterwards, the height limit leaped from 5 to 40 levels, and the use assigned to the terrain became residential, suddenly multiplying the land value by ten. In spite of complaints, the towers were carried out, but now, with Unesco threatening to withdraw Istanbul’s World Heritage Site title, the country’s Supreme Court has sentenced that the buildings be razed. The news, however, will be real news when the trio of giants really comes down.