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Under Istanbul, now Over Istanbul

September 26, 2010

We’ve already covered the seedy (and completely made-up) underbelly of Istanbul when we talked about the Nesin Maps and their implications. And now, thanks to more BLDGBlog, I get to talk about the polar opposite. What goes on in the sky above our fair city. And this time, I get to spit the truth.

You recognize this building? If you live anywhere north of Kabatas, you’ve passed it dozens of times while on your way to Kabatas. It’s the Ritz Carlton at Suzer Plaza.

Definitely a landmark, despite any heat it has taken for being, well, kind of ugly. But the four-floor gallery at the very tip top? The thing that looks like its out of SimTower? According to the city of Istanbul and Besiktas Belediyesi, it doesn’t exist.

You should probably be skeptical if the first thing on the English FAQ of Suzer Plaza is “Is the process of construction of the Suzer Plaza illegal?” And then throws a whole lot of jumbly legalese at you. And the long and short of it is, the contractors turned in plans to the necessary authorities. These plans didn’t mention the top four floors. So, according to all official records, they don’t exist.

The implications of this, of course, are fascinating. The room that is plainly visible from everywhere does not exist. And of course, the kaymakam or whoever demanded that all keys be turned in and that nobody go up there…but lets be serious. There is a four-storey cathedral of modernism overlooking Istanbul. And only a few people may ever be able to go up there.

Much like Said Nursi’s grave, only maybe a few keys to this room exist. They must be passed on, from generation to generation or from business partner to business partner as a sort of open secret. I love to think of a poker game somewhere in Northern Cyprus where a military general loses his key in a game of stud. Or maybe a young, brash, investment banker gave his key to a lover, who then crashed her car into the Bosphorus. The key is lost forever.

Or in another tale, the room is a panopticon. An unsubtle symbol of the deep state, or perhaps Erdoganlik, it is a room full of computers, telescopes, and maps. Equal parts Dark Night and Patriot Games.

And the most interesting part, to me, is that since the solarium doesn’t exist, it can’t be taxed, and it can’t be investigated properly. If there’s anything nefarious going on in there, it would need a policeman ready to break the laws he’s there to defend in order to discover what’s really going on.

My Manaugh-inspired attempts at evocativity may likely fall short. So its worth linking to the man himself. The idea of “Permission we already have” is Suzer Plaza writ small. Instead of construction out of invincibility, this sort of permission is death by papercuts.

The concept of Turknology is well-known in the Istanbul blogging community. The idea is something between creative problem-solving and optimism, and usually veers off into the baroque.  Anyone who’s been into a working class Turkish home (or even a workingman’s restaurant) has seen examples of brilliance mixed with precariousness. This English example would fit in well:

One of the reasons I have such a country-crush on Turkey is because a million little insurrections take place here right under (or above) our noses. The government is in a permanent state of friction in a way that is a bit less bombastic and more kinetic than in the US. I’ve just started reading through a textbook of Turkish law, and you’ll stumble into weird little paradoxes that would make Scalia kill a man.

People cheat the system. Some by adding a dozen chimneys in a cheeky form of threading loopholes, some by using all their money and influence to build a damn solarium where the government can’t touch it. To each within their means, I suppose. And you decide whether you prefer the story of a thousand little chaoses or the one big one.

Just know that whenever you’re taking 42T up to Taksim, there may be someone, and nobody knows who, that is watching you.

This also serves as a reminder to check out Istanbul Design Week that’s happening this week. It should be fantastic, and if you want to go with, you know how to find me.

And if you’d like more Istanbul architecture coolness, here is your source.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 13, 2011 2:03 am

    The Third Word

    In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

    O you people, worship….

    If you want to understand what great profit and happiness lie in worship, and what great loss and ruin lie in vice and dissipation listen to and take heed of the following story which is in the form of a comparison:

    One time, two soldiers received orders to proceed to a distant city. They set off and travelled together until the road forked. At the fork was a man who said to them, “The road on the right causes no loss at all, and nine out of ten of those who take it receive a high profit and experience great ease. While the road on the left provides no advantages, and nine out of ten of its travellers make a loss. But they are the same as regards distance. Only there is one difference: those who take the left-hand road, which has no rules and no one in authority, travel without baggage and arms. They feel an apparent lightness and deceptive ease. Whereas those travelling on the right-hand road, which is under military order, are compelled to carry a kit-bag full of nutritious rations four kilos or so in weight and a superb army rifle of about two kilos which will overpower and rout every enemy…”

    After the two soldiers had listened to what this instructive man had to say, the fortunate one took the road to the right. He loaded the weight of ten kilos onto his back, but his heart and spirit were saved from thousands of kilos of fear and feeling obliged to others. As for the other, luckless, soldier, he left the army. He did not want to conform to the order, and he went off to the left. He was released from bearing a load of ten kilos, but his heart was constricted by thousands of kilos of indebtedness, and his spirit crushed by innumerable fears. He proceeded on his way both begging from everyone and trembling before every object and every event until he reached his destination. And there he was punished as a mutineer and a deserter.

    As for the soldier who loved the order of the army, had guarded his kit-bag and rifle, and taken the right-hand road, he had gone on his way being obliged to no one, fearing no one, and with an easy heart and conscience until he reached the city he was seeking. There he received a reward worthy of an honourable soldier who had carried out his duty well.

    And so, O rebellious soul, know that one of those two travellers represents those who submit to the Divine Law, while the other represents the rebellious and those who follow their own desires. The road is the road of life, which comes from the Spirit World, passes through the grave, and carries on to the Hereafter. As for the kit-bag and rifle, they are worship and fear of God. There is an apparent burden in worship, but there is an ease and lightness in its meaning that defies description. For in the prescribed prayers the worshipper declares, “I bear witness that there is no god but God.” That is to say, since he is believing and saying, “There is no Creator and Provider other than Him. Harm and benefit are in His hand. He is both All-Wise; He does nothing in vain, and He is All-Compassionate; His bounty and mercy are abundant”, he finds the door of a treasury of mercy in everything. And he knocks on it with his supplication. Moreover, he sees that everything is subjugated to the command of his own Sustainer, so he takes refuge in Him. He places his trust in Him and relies on Him, and is fortified against every disaster; his belief gives him complete confidence.

    Indeed, like with every true virtue, the source of courage is belief in God, and worship. And like with every iniquity, the source of cowardice is misguidance.

    In fact, for a worshipper with a truly illuminated heart, it is possible that even if the globe of the earth became a bomb and exploded, it would not frighten him. He would watch it with pleasurable wonder as a marvel of the Eternally Besoughted One’s Power. But when a famous degenerate philosopher with a so-called enlightened mind but no heart saw a comet in the sky, he trembled on the ground, and exclaimed anxiously: “Isn’t that comet going to hit the earth?” (On one occasion, America was quaking with fear at such a comet, and many people left their homes in the middle of the night.)

    Yes, although man is in need of numberless things, his capital is as nothing, and although he is subject to endless calamities, his power too is as nothing. Simply, the extent of his capital and power is merely as far as his hand can reach. However, his hopes, desires, pains, and tribulations reach as far as the eye and the imagination can stretch. Anyone who is not totally blind can see and understand then what a great profit, happiness, and bounty for the human spirit, which is thus impotent and weak, and needy and wanting, are worship, affirmation of God’s Unity, and reliance on God and submission to Him.

    It is obvious that a safe way is preferable to a harmful way, even if the possibility of its safety is only one in ten. But on the way of worship, which our matter here, there is a nine out of ten possibility of it leading to a treasury of eternal happiness, as well as it being safe. While it is established by the testimony – which is at the degree of consensus – of innumerable experts and witnesses that besides being without benefit, and the dissolute even confess to this, the way of vice and dissipation ends in eternal misery. And according to the reports of those who have uncovered the mysteries of creation this is absolutely certain.

    In Short: Like that of the Hereafter, happiness in this world too lies in worship and being a soldier for Almighty God. In which case, we should constantly say: “Praise be to God for obedience and success”, and we should thank Him that we are Muslims…

    * * *

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